News24

Axe-wielding arsonist kills imam in mosque

2012-03-13 08:55

Brussels - An axe-wielding arsonist burst into a Shi'ite Belgian mosque on Monday, killing the imam and destroying much of the building in an attack local Muslims tipped as the work of Sunni extremists.

Police said the man, detained after mosque personnel trapped him inside the building, apparently used fuel to set fire to the Rida mosque near Brussels' international rail hub, killing 46-year-old father-of-four Abdallah Dadou.

The victim, who died of smoke inhalation, was described by worshipper Abdel Adouzeyneb, a 39-year-old real estate agent, as "a person who was loved by everybody - he was open, well integrated, smiling and happy".

A second person who was with the victim at the time of the attack was slightly injured.

Police were unable to immediately name the suspect as he lacked identity papers, but authorities said the man described himself as a Muslim born in 1978. Authorities are investigating his motives and whether he had accomplices.

Azzedine Laghmich, an official at the mosque, said the attacker was "a Salafist", who sprayed petrol inside the mosque before setting it alight and shouting Sunni slogans on his way out - cries related to the conflict in Syria.

Salafist threats

"All the eyewitness accounts said so," Laghmich added.

Isabelle Praile, another senior official in Belgium's organised Muslim community, said the Rida mosque "had already been placed under police protection several years ago", citing direct threats from members of the ultra-conservative Salafist movement.

Around 100 men gathered on the edge of a police cordon near the mosque, angrily chanting Shi'ite slogans while some cried and others hugged and prayed. Police forensics teams scoured the scene of the attack.

"I brought my eight-year-old son here with me so that he can see blind hate, what it can do," said Ismael Ben Mohammad, aged 40, adding that he felt "a sadness difficult to describe".

The mayor of the city's Anderlecht ward, Gaetan Van Goidsenhoven, appealed for calm at an overnight press conference, saying it was "not only necessary to live side-by-side, but also to allow justice and the police to do their work".

Prosecutor Jean-Marc Meilleur said the arson suspect had come armed with a knife and an axe, but that "people inside the mosque managed to lock him in the building" before police arrived.

Press conference

"At the moment, there is only one suspect," he said, without excluding accomplices and stressing it was "too soon" to pin down possible motives.

Another press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday.

The area around the 2 000-capacity mosque, one of four Shi'ite centres of worship in the city's overwhelming majority Sunni Muslim community, has a large immigrant Muslim population.

Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said she was "very shocked by the events that have occurred" which she condemned "with firmness and indignation".

Fadila Laanan, a regional minister, said on her Twitter account that she was "scandalised by this attack in my community against a mosque".

"A man is dead and that is despicable, nothing can excuse such an act."

Moderates

The last time an imam was targeted in Brussels was in 1989 when Saudi-born Abdullah Muhammad al-Ahdal was shot dead.

He served as imam in the Grand Mosque of Brussels and was killed on March of that year by an armed man inside the mosque.

His killing was claimed by a small pro-Iranian group in Lebanon who accused him of being too moderate and of having rejected the death fatwa slapped on writer Salman Rushdie.

Comments
  • David - 2012-03-13 09:28

    such peaceful people those muslims are......

      CraigB - 2012-03-13 09:34

      @David And the US soldier who went on a rampage killing 16 Afghani non-combatants? Such peaceful people those Americans are.... Such useful things those generalisations are...?

      CraigB - 2012-03-13 09:34

      @David And the US soldier who went on a rampage killing 16 Afghani non-combatants? Such peaceful people those Americans are.... Such useful things those generalisations are...?

      Eliem - 2012-03-13 09:48

      @david. hippocrate. peacefull people are the western terrorists that swop oil for blood

      Eliem - 2012-03-13 09:48

      @david. hippocrate. peacefull people are the western terrorists that swop oil for blood

      bounca363 - 2012-03-13 10:09

      Excuse me Im a muslim and I do not under any circumstance condone this mans actions. Get it out of your mind us muslims are not all terrorist. Islam does not under any circumstance allow violence unless we are being directly attacked and allowed to defend not inflict harm unto innocent people muslim or not.

      bounca363 - 2012-03-13 10:09

      Excuse me Im a muslim and I do not under any circumstance condone this mans actions. Get it out of your mind us muslims are not all terrorist. Islam does not under any circumstance allow violence unless we are being directly attacked and allowed to defend not inflict harm unto innocent people muslim or not.

      Janine Stassen - 2012-03-13 10:10

      Just as peacefull as the americans? Why is it always a big thing to non-muslims when a \muslim\ kills another?

      Janine Stassen - 2012-03-13 10:10

      Just as peacefull as the americans? Why is it always a big thing to non-muslims when a \muslim\ kills another?

  • Anastasia - 2012-03-13 09:44

    I have to ask why it HAS to be a sunni related retaliation or attack. Why can't we just see it as one mad idiot, who has taken a book too literally, or went of his medication because it seemed like a good idea?

      ztoefy - 2012-03-13 09:57

      because pointing out the race or religion of the criminal in question causes hype and sells articles. Media do not have the peoples interests any more. It's all about sensationalism.

      ztoefy - 2012-03-13 09:57

      because pointing out the race or religion of the criminal in question causes hype and sells articles. Media do not have the peoples interests any more. It's all about sensationalism.

  • John - 2012-03-13 10:09

    Religous wars are fought over whose imaginary friend is better. then you have idiots from the same religion fighting over who is the best mate of their imaginary friend. I am not just taking a dig at Muslims as the Christians can be just as bad if not worse.

      Anastasia - 2012-03-13 10:28

      Yep. About sums up the problem.

      Anastasia - 2012-03-13 10:28

      Yep. About sums up the problem.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-13 10:47

      Exactly. Which cult knows better how to flatter and beg help from the imaginary sky daddy. It is really, really ridiculous.

  • irshaad.padia - 2012-03-13 11:39

    I think it's obvious to many by now: You get extremists in all religions, and it is unfair to paint everyone with the same brush.

      Neville - 2012-03-13 12:20

      Muslim killing moslem , moslem killing christians, they got no respect for life , killing innocent people at the bus stop, the prophet looking with sadness on his people , because i know it was never his teaching.

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