Suspect Arrested in Stabbing at London Mosque


LONDON — A 70-year-old prayer leader at London Central Mosque was stabbed by an attacker who entered the building during afternoon prayer on Thursday before being subdued by worshipers and arrested by the police.

The attack is not being treated as terrorism, the police said.

The victim was the person who leads the call to prayer, and he had just begun singing when he was assaulted, the mosque said in a statement.

“The attacker was apprehended by the worshipers until the police arrived and arrested him,” the mosque’s statement read.

People who were present at the scene shortly after the attack said they had recognized the suspect. Mustafa Field, the director of the charity Faiths Forum for London charity and a regular worshiper at the mosque, said the man had been coming to the mosque for the last six months. He described the suspect as a “vulnerable man” with possible mental health issues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a brief statement on Twitter that he was “saddened” to hear of the attack.

“Its so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship,” he wrote.

Afternoon prayer had just begun when the attack took place, and images and video footage posted on Twitter showed people at the mosque, near Regent’s Park in Central London, wrestling a barefoot man wearing a red jacket to the ground.

A video taken inside the mosque shows a crowd of men gathered around the suspect as the police restrain him. A knife can be seen on the floor a few feet away.

“Please brother, let the police do their job,” a man can be heard saying in the clip. Another shows the suspect being led away by police officers.

Miqdaad Versi, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC that the attack at what he called one of the most iconic mosques in the capital was “deeply disturbing.”

Mr. Versi later posted a statement on Twitter urging calm.

“Whilst there are many stories and motives being discussed, it is important not to rush to any conclusion,” he wrote. “What we know, is that the incident is not being treated as terror-related at this time.”

The mosque dates from 1940, when the British government was persuaded to find a location in London for Muslims.

Winston Churchill’s war cabinet authorized the acquisition of the site, but construction did not begin until 1974. The mosque was completed in 1977, and it can accommodate 5,000 people for Friday Prayer.

On Thursday, however, the house of worship was surrounded by police vehicles and cordoned off with crime scene tape.

In recent months, there have been two stabbing attacks carried out by radicalized former prisoners.

In November, Usman Khan, who had been released from prison a year earlier after serving half of his sentence for his involvement in a bomb plot, carried out a deadly knife attack near London Bridge.

In January, another man who had recently been released from prison, Sudesh Mamoor Faraz Amman, was shot and killed by the police as he went on a stabbing rampage in the Streatham neighborhood of South London.

In June 2017, a British man drove a rental van into a congregation of Muslim worshipers leaving a mosque in the Finsbury Park area of the city.

One person was killed and at least 10 others injured in that attack, which took place during Ramadan, the holiest month on the Muslim calendar.

Darren Osborne was later convicted of murder and attempted murder after an eight-day trial at the Woolwich Crown Court.

During testimony, the court was told he had become “obsessed” with Muslims and hoped to kill Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, as well as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, at a different location.

Megan Specia contributed reporting.





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