Counter-terrorism police are assisting with an investigation into a second Muslim man in the space of a month being set alight after leaving a mosque.
A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on Tuesday after a worshipper was targeted as he walked home from Dudley Road mosque in Birmingham on Monday evening.
West Midlands Police said the victim, in his 70s, was approached by a man who spoke to him briefly before spraying an “unknown substance” on his jacket and igniting it on Shenstone Road in the Edgbaston area.
Horrific CCTV of the attack showed the worshipper trying to fend off the assailant after he was sprayed, only to be consumed by an enormous ball of fire.
The victim suffered burns to his face and was taken to hospital with serious injuries, which the force said were not life-threatening.
Tayyab Riaz, the victim’s nephew, told the BBC the family was “very upset” and described the attack as “shocking news”.
“For 35 years he’s been going to that mosque to pray and there's never been a problem,” he said. “Suddenly this happens. His hair, beard and eyebrows are badly burnt. We’re praying he’s OK.”
It is understood that the involvement of specialist counter-terror officers was directly prompted by the stark similarities the attack bore to an incident in the Ealing area of London on February 27, when an 82-year-old worshipper was doused in petrol and set alight.
‘A concerning case’
Ch Supt Richard North of West Midlands Police confirmed that officers were investigating possible links between the two incidents.
Speaking at a community centre on Winson Green Road, Birmingham, he said: “We are aware of the incident that happened in London.
“I have had meetings today with colleagues from the Metropolitan Police and they are engaged in the inquiry. We are working very much closely together."
The man being questioned in connection with the Birmingham attack had been arrested on Dudley Road after being identified by officers who were in the area investigating the incident.
He remains in custody, according to West Midlands Police.
Mr North added: “We don’t understand what motivated the attack at the moment. That might become apparent as we move through those inquiries.”
“We have officers patrolling the local area to reassure people and we are visiting local faith establishments to keep them informed,” Mr North said.
Asked about the incident in Edgbaston, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “a concerning case”.
‘We’re just really stunned and want him apprehended’
In a statement, the Association of British Muslims said the victim of the Birmingham attack was an “elderly Muslim man” who was targeted “the day before Ramadan”.
Mohammed Khan, the treasurer of Faizul Quran mosque, described him as a “very quiet, decent man who had no problems with anybody”.
The alleged attacker had been spotted several times attending prayers at the mosque over the last month and on Tuesday, some worshippers said the incident had prompted them to pray at home.
Earlier this month, Scotland Yard appealed for information after an 82-year-old worshipper was left with severe burns when he was doused in petrol and set alight outside a mosque.
The suspect, who has not yet been arrested, talked to his elderly victim, who is said to now be recovering well at home, as they both left the mosque, according to Scotland Yard.
The perpetrator is believed to be an attendee at the mosque, with congregants saying that he is not a regular attendee and has not been seen for a long time.
“We don’t know where he stays, or his motive,” a spokesman for the mosque said at the time. “We’re just really stunned and want him apprehended.”
Anyone with information about the Birmingham attack has been asked to contact West Midlands Police on 101 or alternatively via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.