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Birmingham mosque attack captured on CCTV as police step up security for Friday prayers

'This is an abhorrent, despicable act that is clearly designed to create fear in our communities who are actually cherished,' say West Midlands Police

Chris Baynes
Friday 22 March 2019 13:49 GMT
CCTV shows Birmingham sledgehammer attack on mosque

CCTV footage has emerged showing a man smashing the window of a Birmingham mosque during a string of “abhorrent” attacks in the wake of the Christchurch shootings.

The video shows a vandal in a hoodie shattering a window at Witton Islamic Centre with an object believed to be a sledgehammer before running away from the building.

The mosque was one of five in the city targeted on Wednesday night, prompting West Midlands Police to launch a terrorism investigation. The force said it was treating the attacks as linked.

Suspected Islamophobic hate crimes have been reported across the UK following the massacre of 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand by a suspected white supremacist.

Mosques around the world were to remain under heightened security for Friday prayers this week.

Thousands of people including New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern gathered near the Al-Noor mosque, where most of the victims were killed in the Christchurch attack, as the country held two minutes of silence a week on from the atrocity. The Islamic call to prayer was broadcast on national television and radio.

Imam Gamal Fouda, who led the prayers at Al-Noor, told worshippers: “We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken.”

In London, Scotland Yard said officers had increased patrols and were working Muslim communities and faith leaders to give security advice.

Metropolitan Police commander Mark McEwan said: “This approach will continue [on Friday] as well as over the week ahead with policing tailored in response to local community concerns and needs. This has specifically taken into account Friday prayers and vigils in response to the attack in New Zealand.

“There continues to be no intelligence linking the appalling events in Christchurch with the UK, however we understand how some people will be feeling concerned and vulnerable.”

A police officer collects forensic evidence from the broken window of a mosque in Albert Road, Birmingham (PA)

London mayor Sadiq Khan, speaking after a meeting between Muslim leaders and police at the capital’s City Hall on Thursday night, said: “Mosques should always be sanctuaries, places where people feel safe to worship and practise their faith in peace.”

The Muslim Council of Britain praised the increased security efforts, which spokesman Miqdaad Versi said were “very reassuring”.

“We’ve seen a number of cases over the last week of actions targeting Muslims,” he added.

Two people in Rochdale were charged earlier this week after allegedly racially abusing after a taxi driver while referencing the Christchurch attack. Greater Manchester Police has arrested five other people for suspected hate crimes since the shootings, including a man who called the gunman a “hero”.

In Oxford, Thames Valley Police launched an investigation after swastikas and suspected references to the New Zealand massacre were spray-painted on a school.

A Muslim man was attacked with a hammer by men shouting Islamophobic abuse outside an east London mosque on Friday, and a teenager in Stanwell, Surrey, was stabbed in an alleged far-right terror attack on Saturday.

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Farooq Aftab, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, stressed the need to be alert to danger.

“We have heard what’s going on in Birmingham, and we have to be on our guard and we have to be vigilant,” he said.

West Midlands Police has stepped up patrols around Islamic centres as detectives investigate the mosque attacks. The force said it had collected forensic evidence and was examining CCTV to identify a suspect.

Deputy chief constable Louisa Rolfe added: “This is an abhorrent, despicable act that is clearly designed to create fear in our communities who are actually cherished in Birmingham.”

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