Two Elderly Men Set on Fire Near UK Mosques

A 28-year-old man was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder after setting two men on fire near mosques in London and Birmingham.

The suspect was identified as Mohammed Abbkr, a Birmingham resident from Sudan. West Midlands police charged him over two attacks he committed in Birmingham and London.

Appearing in court in Birmingham on March 23rd. Abbkr was asked not to enter a plea and was ordered to be imprisoned until his next hearing on April 20.

According to reports, Abbkr allegedly sprayed a substance on two elderly men before setting them on fire in two separate incidents. The first occurred near an Islamic center in the Ealing area of West London on February 27th. The second incident happened near a mosque in Edgbaston, Birmingham, last March 20th.

The two victims were 70-year-old Mohammed Rayaz and 82-year-old Hashi Odowa. BBC reports that Rayaz’s condition was serious but stable after a skin graft operation. Odowa suffered severe burns to his face and arms.

Many people who knew Rayaz were shocked by the incident and raised serious concerns over the safety of Edgbaston’s Muslim community following the attacks. The incident came as Muslims worldwide prepared for the month of Ramadan. 

"This gentleman, who is a victim, our family knows him - we know who it is," a nearby resident, Mohammed Abbasim, told BBC Radio WM, narrating how he was shocked to find out that someone he knew was attacked. 

Rayaz’s neighbors also recalled how they tried to put the flames out after the attack and carry him to his home to be treated by paramedics. He suffered from severe burns to his face and was taken to hospital. His son also said Rayaz was "very badly burned," and they’re praying for his recovery. 

MP Shabana Mahmood of the Birmingham Ladywood also organized a community walkabout with police last March 22nd to reassure the Muslim community on the eve of Ramadan. She also spoke to Rayaz via video call and said he was "touched at the outpouring of love and support.

"His hands are bandaged up, and he's obviously had some very deep, serious injuries to his face, and he couldn't see anything, but he was able to talk," Mahmood said.

The attack against Rayaz happened around 7:00 PM GMT on Shenstone Road, near the mosque on Dudley Road. West Midlands and Metropolitan Police are investigating the incidents to see if the attacks in London and Birmingham were connected.

"We are aware of the incident that happened in London.” Richard North, commander of the West Midlands police force, said.

"Our investigation continues with support from Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands, who have access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.” he also reported.

"We are actively working with the Metropolitan Police to see if those two incidents are connected. That's a major part of our inquiry," North added.

With support from counter-terrorism officers, detectives and police officers supported the investigations. Police also added officers were “keeping an open mind as to any potential motivation.

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