A man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after he stabbed a man in his 70s who was leading the call to prayer in a mosque near Regent’s Park.
Worshippers tackled the 29-year-old suspected knifeman, who is believed to have been attending prayers at London Central Mosque, as witnesses told how he launched a “vicious attack” on the muazzin, who makes the call to prayer.
Police, who were called at about 3.10pm on Thursday, are not treating the incident as terror-related.
The victim was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital. He is in a non-life threatening condition. The man who was arrested has now been taken into custody, the Metropolitan Police said.
Ayaz Ahmad, adviser to the mosque, said: “Everybody’s reaction was shock and horror, the men were screaming.
“It was a vicious attack. We live in a society where we hear a lot about knife crime and what have you but actually to physically be in a situation where you’re first-hand watching an attempted murder take place it’s very shocking.”
He added: “This guy was not a regular, I’ve never seen him here in 10 years.”
Images posted to social media showed a man in a red hooded top, jeans and bare feet being pinned to the floor by police officers inside the mosque, as others, including a small child, watched on.
A video also appeared to show a knife on the floor under a plastic chair.
Abi Watik, 59, said the victim was stabbed once in the right shoulder moments after prayers had started and the attacker “was silent the whole time”.
“We were shocked, we didn’t know what happened, we saw the guy on the floor and blood on his shoulder and the knife on the floor,” he said.
The mosque said members of the congregation broke from their prayers and restrained the attacker until police arrived.
Ahmad added: “It would have been life threatening if it wasn’t for the worshippers who helped stop the guy and apprehend him.
“I called the ambulance, the ambulance came within a matter of minutes.”
Mustafa Field, director of the Faiths Forum for London, told reporters outside the mosque that worshippers said it was “one stab, one strike, around the neck” of the victim.
“Then the congregation members, some of them broke their prayers, and intervened, restrained the individual,” he said.
“The mosque security called the police, and the police were there within minutes, and he was restrained and taken away.”
In a statement, London Central Mosque said the victim was stabbed while calling worshippers to prayer.
“There was an incident today at London Central Mosque where an unknown individual attacked and stabbed the muazzin during Asr Prayer around 3pm.
“The attacker was apprehended by the worshippers until the police arrived and arrested him.”
The muazzin was seriously injured in the attack, the statement added.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply saddened” over the news of the attack.
“It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship,” he tweeted. “My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.”
A spokesperson for the London Ambulance Service said the man had been taken to a “major trauma centre”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said police would be providing extra resources, writing on Twitter: “I’m deeply concerned by this incident at London Central Mosque.
“Every Londoner is entitled to feel safe in their place of worship & I want to reassure London’s communities that acts of violence in our city will not be tolerated.
“The Met are providing extra resources in the area.”
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