LONDON: Police are hunting for a man suspected of firing a shot outside an east London mosque during evening prayers for Ramadan, reports The Guardian.
The man was reported to have entered the Seven Kings mosque in Ilford on Thursday night, but was “ushered out” by those inside, police said. A shot was then heard at 10.45pm.Police said there were no injuries and they were not treating it as a terrorist incident. They said they believed the shot came from a blank-firing handgun.
One theory police are considering is that the gunshot followed a dispute linked to gangs or criminality which started in the street and then moved into the mosque.
Because of the involvement of a firearm and a gunshot being heard so close to a place of worship, duty officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command were involved in the Met’s assessment of the incident to see if violent extremism was involved.
Police decided it was not linked to terrorism and extremism and allowed local officers to continue the hunt for the man who fired the shot, supported by officers from Trident, which tackles gang violence and shootings.
The incident comes after 51 people were killed in the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand in March and nearly two years after a terrorist attacked worshippers close to the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, killing one person.
Ibraheem Hussain, 19, a worshipper at the Seven Kings mosque, described hearing a gunshot about half an hour after prayers began.“There’s three sections of the mosque and at taraweeh [evening prayers] during this time of Ramadan the mosque is packed out,” he told the Press Association. “We were upstairs in the classrooms and about 30 minutes into the night prayer a large noise went off.
“I just continued my prayer. It sounded like a firework or maybe something heavy had been dropped, so no one really thought anything of it.
“After we finished we were leaving the shoe area and someone said it was a gunshot, someone had come into the mosque and he had a firearm on him. The managers had seen him, he was masked and acting suspicious and the firearm was let off,” Hussain said.
In a statement, Mufti Suhail, the imam of the mosque, said a man entered the building during prayers. “The suspect ran from the scene when stopped by brothers standing guard at the mosque,” he said.
The Met police said: “Detectives investigating a firearm discharge in Seven Kings have carried out a number of fast-time inquiries and now believe that the incident may have stemmed from an earlier incident in the street close to the mosque.
“Officers will continue to work closely with representatives from the mosque and are providing reassurance to the local community.”
Sadiq Khan said he was being briefed by the Met police commissioner, Cressida Dick, and listening to community leaders.
The mayor of London said: “I am relieved that nobody was injured by what police believe was a blank-firing handgun. Nevertheless the incident would have frightened worshippers during Ramadan prayers, particularly in the wake of the attacks on mosques in Christchurch earlier this year.
“Everyone should be free to practise their faith free from danger and fear.”