A 28-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder after two elderly men were set alight after leaving mosques in Birmingham and London.
West Midlands Police said Mohammed Abbkr, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, is being kept in custody ahead of an appearance at the city’s magistrates’ court this morning.
The force said Abbkr is alleged to have sprayed a substance on two men and set it alight in separate incidents in Ealing, west London, on 27 February and Birmingham on Monday, 20 March. Mohammed Rayaz, 70, was set on fire as he walked home from the Dudley Road Mosque in Edgbaston at about 7pm on Monday, just before the start of Ramadan. He remains in hospital with severe injuries. Abbkr was arrested in the Dudley Road area on Tuesday on suspicion of the attempted murder of Mr Rayaz. He was later arrested on suspicion of the same offence in relation to an 82-year-old who suffered severe burns to his face and arms near an Islamic centre in Ealing, west London, last month.
Ch Supt Richard North, commander at Birmingham police, said counter-terrorism police were called in to assist the investigation. He added: We have officers patrolling the local area to reassure people and we are visiting local faith establishments to keep them informed.”
He also issued a plea for people to come forward with CCTV, doorbell footage or other video that could help the investigation, saying: “I’d urge the community to work with us and to avoid any speculation at this stage.”
Following the attack, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward, Cabinet member for social justice, community safety and equalities John Cotton, and ward councillors Sharon Thompson and 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 has been asked to get in touch with West Midlands Police via Live Chat on the force website or to contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.