Anti-terror cops investigating after worshipper set alight walking home from Birmingham mosque with suspect arrested

21 March 2023, 10:57 | Updated: 21 March 2023, 15:07

A man has been arrested after a worshipper suffered facial burns after his jacket was set alight
A man has been arrested after a worshipper suffered facial burns after his jacket was set alight. Picture: West Midlands Police

By Chay Quinn

Counter-terror specialists are supporting police after a worshipper was set alight as he walked home from a mosque - with authorities confirming today that a man has been arrested.

West Midlands Police announced this afternoon that a man had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with last night's attack on Shenstone Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The victim suffered burns to his face after he was sprayed with an unknown substance just after 7pm last night while walking home from Dudley Road mosque

He was taken to hospital with serious injuries which are not believed to be life-threatening.

The suspect, whose age was not given, was arrested on Dudley Road after he was identified by officers who were in the area carrying out inquiries, and is in custody.

Chief Superintendent Richard North said: "Our officers have been working through the night to establish what happened and who is responsible.

"We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are using all resources available to us. We are keeping an open mind to the motive of the attacker."

The attack comes weeks after a similar incident in London in February where a victim was set alight after leaving the West London Islamic Centre in Ealing, west London.

North Edgbaston Labour Councillors speak out after man was set alight off Dudley Road

Chief Supt Richard North added: “Our investigation continues with support from Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands CTU who have access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

“We have officers patrolling the local area to reassure people and we are visiting local faith establishments to keep them informed.”

West Midlands police said in an earlier statement after last night's incident: "We're investigating after a man was set alight on Brixham Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, just after 7pm.

"It's believed the man, who was walking home from Dudley Road Mosque, was approached by a man.

"He spoke to him briefly before spraying him with an unknown substance and then his jacket was set alight, causing burns to his face.

"He was taken to hospital with serious injuries which are thankfully not believed to be life-threatening."

Burns on the scene in Edgbaston after a man was reportedly set on fire last night
Burns on the scene in Edgbaston after a man was reportedly set on fire last night. Picture: LBC

Ibrahim, who lives in the area, told LBC: "I heard screaming at 6.55 last night. The area that this is, you hear these kind of noises.

"I thought it was someone messing around in the dark because we heard barking as well, and then I heard my brother exclaim 'there’s a fire outside.'

"By the time we came outside to look. it was all put out. And then yeah we heard through the Fire Brigade and the police that someone had been set alight.

"We looked at the footage and sent it to the authorities and we found out that it was an elderly man set on fire."

Brixham Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where the worshipper was set alight on his way home from a mosque
Brixham Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where the worshipper was set alight on his way home from a mosque. Picture: LBC

Ibrahim told LBC that a heroic lady who lives in the are was quick on her feet to help put out the fire.

He detailed: "It quite shocking to be honest. A lady that lives a few doors down ran out with a bucket and, I think, doused the fire.

"It could have been worse. As long as he recovers that’s all that matters."

Officers are aware of a video posted on social media "showing a man being set alight, and we're examining it as part of our investigations", police added.

Extra officers will be in the area today to speak to the community and to provide reassurance.

Local council leader Cllr Ian Ward, Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, and ward councillors Cllr Sharon Thompson and Cllr Marcus Bernasconi, said: “This was a horrific attack and our thoughts are with the victim and his family at such a distressing time.

“Councillors and the Community Safety team are speaking to the family and West Midlands Police. We will continue to offer our support.

“Council officers, local councillors and MP have also been engaging with community groups and local mosques to offer support to the wider community.

“We would urge the community to work with the police and to avoid any speculation at this stage – and also like to thank them for their willingness to share information on this incident.

Anyone with information about the Birmingham incident has been asked to get in touch with West Midlands Police via Live Chat on the force website, or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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