A suspect who was held on suspicion of attempted murder after a pensioner was set on fire as he left Birmingham mosque has been arrested over a similar attack in the west London three weeks ago.
Detectives and anti-terror police are questioning the man – believed to be of North African descent – on two counts of attempted murder. Officers say they are not sure about the motive for the attacks.
Mohammed Rayaz, 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set on fire shortly after leaving the place of worship. Birminghamwhere he goes regularly, on Mondays.
The attack on Mr Rayaz – whose relatives told MailOnline he is in “extreme pain” and cannot open his eyes – was graphically captured on CCTV and caused panic in the area with officers stepping up patrols.
But Monday’s attack near the Dudley Road Mosque came just three weeks after a similar incident 200 miles away in Ealing, when another worshiper, 82-year-old Hashi, was set on fire after leaving the West London Islamic Center was followed. He was taken to hospital for treatment for severe burns to his face and arms.
Mohammed Rayaz (pictured), 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set on fire during the attack
Video shared on social media appears to show a man being set on fire by another person in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on Monday
Police arrested a man (pictured) on suspicion of attempted murder after an elderly worshiper was set on fire as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham on Monday
Police are investigating whether the two incidents are related – and today they confirmed they think they are.
Chairman of the Dudley Road Mosque Mohammed Rashid told the Telegraph that the alleged attacker started visiting the place of worship three weeks ago and spoke both English and Arabic.
The incident in Ealing occurred around 8pm on Monday 27 February. Officers describing the attack said: ‘The suspect struck up a conversation with the victim as they both left the West London Islamic Center (WILC).
They were talking for about five minutes when the suspect doused the victim with a liquid, presumably gasoline, before setting him on fire with a lighter. The suspect then ran away.
“The victim was taken to hospital where he was treated for severe burns to his face and arms.”
Friends of the elderly victim say he is concerned about returning to pray at his prayer house after the attack.
Rayaz, 70, was sprayed with an unknown substance and set on fire shortly after leaving Dudley Road Mosque (pictured) in Edgbaston, Birmingham
Members of the Ealing community say they have felt ‘uncertain’ and cautious.
Jama Ahmed, who prays at WLIC, said, “Mr. Hashi is fine. He’s recovering well.
“But he’s a little worried about coming back to the mosque, even though he doesn’t know why he was attacked.”
Mr. Hashi’s 50-year-old friend added, “The police came soon after and roamed around for a few weeks, but we are very careful while praying.
“The youth and teens don’t feel confident about being out at night and going straight home after their prayers. The municipality feels insecure. During the day it is fine, but at night people are careful.
“It’s approaching Ramadan and we’ll be finishing late, so everyone’s a little worried. Thousands of people will come to the mosque during Ramadan.’
Adil, another worshiper of the WLIC mosque, believes the attacks were age-related rather than race-related. “These people (the elderly victims of the two attacks) are the most vulnerable,” he added.
“I feel like it’s not about them having the same religion.”
Members of the Ealing community say they have felt ‘uncertain’ and cautious following the attack on the West London Islamic Center (pictured)
But another local entrepreneur disagreed, adding: ‘Because it happened outside the mosque, people are going to say it’s racism. It is possible.
‘The mosque is a holy place, just like a temple or church. I’ve been here 25 years and nothing like this has ever happened before.’
Meanwhile, Mr Rayaz’s cousin, Hamza, 27, gave an update on his uncle’s condition after the second attack in Birmingham. He told MailOnline: ‘I went to see him and he looks really bad.
“He can’t talk much and can’t see anything at all. He is wrapped in a lot of bandages and we pray that he recovers and that it is there [are] no long lasting effects from this terrible attack.
“We don’t want to reveal the name of the hospital where he is being treated, but my uncle is in intensive care and is being well cared for. We’re all praying for him.’
Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson, of the Met’s West Area Command, said: ‘We fully understand the shock that resonated throughout the community following this incident.
“Despite a man arrested, we remain vigilant and urge locals to do the same.
“Highly visible patrols around Singapore Road will continue in the coming days to reassure the local population and I urge anyone concerned to approach officers.”