Counter-terror police are investigating a possible connection after two elderly Muslim men were set alight outside mosques in England.
It comes after a man in his 70s was left “very badly burnt” with “life-changing injuries” after he was set on fire on his way home from Dudley Road Mosque in Edgbaston, Birmingham on Monday evening.
A man was arrested on Tuesday and remains in custody.
An incident occurred exactly three weeks before when an 82-year-old man was set alight on Singapore Road in Ealing on February 27 after he left the West London Islamic Centre in Ealing.
Metropolitan Police said they continue to work with West Midlands Police to see if the two “similar” incidents are linked.
With the series of incidents happening on the cusp of Ramadan, worshippers have been left feeling “devastated”.
A member of Dudley Road Mosque, Sahir Aziz Adam, told Channel 4 that the attacks have a “nationwide effect” as people are “scared“.
Mr Adam said he noticed a man sitting in the mosque and thought he was suspicious because “he wasn’t praying” and “was sitting in the wrong direction.”
His concerns grew when he greeted the suspect with the Islamic salutation “As-salamu alaykum” and he did not respond, but instead ran out of the mosque to the front gates.
The suspect was arrested after he was recognised by worshippers and officers hanging around outside the mosque on Tuesday.
Tayyab Riaz, the victim’s nephew, told the BBC his uncle’s “hair, beard and eyebrows are badly burnt”.
“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.”
Chief Supt Richard North, Commander at Birmingham police, said: “Our officers have been working through the night to establish what happened and who is responsible.
“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are using all resources available to us. We are keeping an open mind to the motive of the attacker and we won’t speculate further at this stage.
“We’re examining CCTV and speaking to witnesses. I’ve been speaking to people this morning, and so I know just how concerned they are and that people are after answers.
“We are determined to get those answers as soon as possible, and I’d urge the community to work with us and to avoid any speculation at this stage.”
North Edgbaston’s councillor Sharon Thompson said that the incident was “life-changing” for the victim and has left everybody in the tight-knit community “shocked”.
However, she said that the suspect’s arrest has made people feel more reassured.
The council is actively working with the mosques to draw up plans on how to keep the spaces safe over Ramadan and the future, she said.
Ms Thompson also highlighted the efforts of the community to track down the suspect, pulling together a map of five or six streets he walked down using footage from Ring doorbell.
The councillor advised the public to avoid speculation and continue to check West Midlands Police and the council’s website for updates.