Chilling footage shows moment a mosque worshipper is set alight in Birmingham as man sentenced

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Mohammed Abbkr was previously found guilty of attempted to murder two elderly men on two separate occasions in Birmingham and London

A man who set alight two elderly worshippers as they left mosques in London and Birmingham has been sentenced to a hospital order and cannot be released without the approval of the Secretary of State.

Mohammed Abbkr, 29, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, was previously found guilty of attempting to murder two elderly men on two separate occasions in February and March last year. Both victims were left with burn injuries.

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Police have released chilling footage of Abbkr approaching his victims and the moment a man in Birmingham was set alight.

In the first attack, Abbkr sprayed petrol over worshipper Hashi Odowa, aged 82, and used a lighter to set him on fire outside West Ealing Islamic Centre in west London during the evening of 27 February 2023.

Abbkr asked the victim if he remembered him, and the victim replied no. Abbkr then said: “I swear in the name of Allah, in the name of God, you will know me.” He then poured petrol over him, setting him ablaze with a lighter and running away. The victim threw his burning jacket into the road, before being taken to hospital with burns to his face and left hand.

In the second incident, he doused worshipper Mohammed Rayaz, aged 70, with petrol from a bottle outside Dudley Road Mosque in Birmingham before setting him alight on March, 20  2023.

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Mohammed AbbkrMohammed Abbkr
Mohammed Abbkr | West Midlands Police

Get a bespoke headline round-up from Birmingham, as well as breaking news updates, when you sign up to BirminghamWorld’s free emails At around 7pm, he approached Mr Rayaz, on Shenstone Road, and spoke to him, asking him if he spoke Arabic. He then poured fuel over him before setting him on fire. Mr Rayaz managed to walk to his son’s house nearby. His son opened the door and the victim said: “Son, son, someone’s put me on fire.”

He was left with serious burns to his face and neck, and in need of skin grafts to his hands and face. He’s been diagnosed with depression and PTSD, and may be left with permanent patching to his face.

When officers searched Abbkr’s home on Gillott Road, Edgbaston, they found a Volvic bottle containing a yellow liquid and a lighter in a rucksack The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was no evidence Abbkr was motivated by a particular ideology, and so the incidents were not treated as a terrorist attack. Abbkr was arrested on March 21, the day after the Birmingham attack, as police tracked him returning to Dudley Road Mosque. Abbkr, who arrived in the UK from Sudan in 2017, was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court today (Wednesday, April 17). He received a hospital order and cannot be released without the approval of the Secretary of State.

‘Horrific acts of violence against two elderly mmebers of the public’

Nick Price, Head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “These were horrific acts of violence against two elderly members of the public as they left mosques.

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“Mohammed Abbkr’s actions resulted in severe injuries and psychological trauma to his victims and caused considerable shock and concern to the communities in London and Birmingham. I hope today’s sentence provides some reassurance to all those affected that they are safer now this man has been brought to justice.”

Burned clothing from Mr Rayaz after he was set alight by Mohammed Abbkr Burned clothing from Mr Rayaz after he was set alight by Mohammed Abbkr
Burned clothing from Mr Rayaz after he was set alight by Mohammed Abbkr | West Midlands Police

‘It was an unbearable thing to see’

Mohammed Ayaz, the eldest son of Mr Rayaz, said: “One of my early memories as a child growing up was my father taking me to the park, taking me to school and spending quality time with me whilst also juggling work and family life like many great fathers in our great country. So, seeing my father on the evening of 20th March in the burnt state he was in was just an awful and unbearable thing to see.

“My father had kept a beard for 20 years after completing Hajj a religious pilgrimage and on that evening seeing my father’s beautiful white beard all burnt off, eyes and lips swollen up, hands burnt and seeing him half naked with no clothes on the upper body was just a very traumatic and life changing moment. No words can describe that moment the emotions which I was feeling, I felt so helpless and weak, no son or daughter should see their father or mother in that state.

“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation on two elderly people, in two different cities after Islamic prayers and after two separate mosques in my view were all planned in advance and carried out with precision with no concern if the victim lives or dies. Furthermore, no consideration of the surrounding public who could have been hurt also.

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“My elderly mother is still traumatised and thinks that the attacker will be released early to come back to finish the job or the attacker’s family might come and attack her and us.” 

‘The attack will live with me forever’

Another son, Adnaan Riaz, added: “Seeing the CCTV video of my dad being set on fire, his screams of pain and then reliving the visuals to the build-up of the attack and then after the attack will be with me forever. I would describe the attacker as a coward, this coward does not belong to any religion, society or even humanity. 

“This impact of emotions which I have shared with you will be felt by me and my family for a very long time to come and will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

‘Horrific attacks almost defy belief’

Ch Insp Haroon Chughtai, of Birmingham Police, said: “These were absolutely horrific attacks which almost defy belief in their apparent randomness and severity. It is by luck and not by design that these two men, who were simply returning home from prayers.

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“Counter-terrorism officers were initially called in to investigate, given the nature of the attacks. While they have continued the investigation, we have found no evidence that Abbkr was motivated by a particular ideology, and so this has not been treated as a terrorist attack.

“Thankfully these kinds of attacks are incredibly rare, but in the aftermath, we worked closely with mosques around Birmingham to offer reassurance and listen to their concerns. The courage of the victims and their families has been exceptional. They have been left with physical and emotional wounds that they may never recover from."