Faith

Imam Dies Inside Brussels Mosque After Firebomb Attack by Alleged Axe-Wielding 'Salafist' Arsonist

"...'a Salafist,' who sprayed petrol inside the mosque before setting it alight and shouting Sunni slogans..."

BRUSSELS (The Blaze/AP) -- A mosque near Brussels was the target Monday evening of an arson attack in which the imam died, Belgian authorities said late Monday.

One man was arrested -- a Muslim who said he was born in 1978 -- in the attack on the mosque in Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels, the Belgian capital, said Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for the Brussels Prosecutor's Office. AFP has more about the alleged radical:

Azzedine Laghmich, an official at the mosque, told AFP 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.

"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.

"It seemed that this person showed up and pulled out a knife and an ax, and that he spread flammable products -- petrol we assume -- in order to start a fire and threaten the mosque occupants," Meilleur said.

According to the Telegraph, the Rida Shiite mosque was one of the largest in the Belgian capital. The attack has practically destroyed the entire building.

"Worshipers were waiting to pray when someone entered with a bag filled with fuel, an eyewitness told a local state broadcaster, according to the BBC. He then flung the bag into the center of the room," MSNBC reported.

He said the man's name and age could not be verified, as he had no identification papers. He said the man had been locked in a room by worshippers at the mosque before authorities apprehended him.

Marie Verbeck, a police spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that no other people were being sought in connection with the attack.

One other person was lightly injured, Meilleur said. He said the attack took place between 6 and 7 p.m. local time.

An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw fire damage and people gathered outside the mosque, some of whom were praying.

Le Soir newspaper said the imam, whom it reported to be 47 years old, died trying to put out the fire. Verbeck said she did not have the name of the imam.

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