Elderly man set on fire after leaving UK mosque

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A counterterrorism probe has been launched after the second such incident in a matter of weeks

Police in the English city of Birmingham have made one arrest on suspicion of attempted murder after an elderly Muslim worshipper was set alight by an assailant as he walked home from a mosque at 7pm local time on Monday, prompting the involvement of counterterrorism police.

West Midlands police said that the suspect briefly spoke with the victim before spraying him with an unknown substance and setting his jacket on fire, which spread to his face. The man was taken to hospital with what police described as serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Footage of the incident later circulated on social media.

Officers from the West Midlands police counterterrorism unit are assisting with enquiries, and are investigating if the attack is linked to a similar incident which occurred in Ealing, London on February 27. The victim in that case was attacked as he left an Islamic Center in the London borough.

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“This is a really serious incident,” Chief Supt. Richard North of Birmingham Police told Sky News on Tuesday. “The victim was simply going about his business, walking back from a place of worship, when he was approached, had this substance sprayed on him and was set on fire.” 

North also said in an earlier statement that counterterrorism experts were engaged in the investigation, in part due to the “specialist capabilities” they have access to to help establish the circumstances of the crime.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office called the attack a “concerning case” in a statement, while The Association of British Muslims (AoBM) said it was “shocked” following the attack. “We also call for calm and urge all communities to come together and remain vigilant and cooperate with the police,” the group’s co-director Mohammad Abbasi added.

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