Imam dead in Shia mosque attack in Belgium

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The area around Anderlecht (marked in red) is home to a large number of Muslim immigrants

An imam in the Belgian municipality of Anderlecht, near the capital, Brussels, has died following a suspected arson attack at a Shia mosque.

It is thought the mosque was attacked by a man wielding an axe, petrol and Molotov cocktails on Monday evening. The imam, in his mid-forties, reportedly died of smoke inhalation while trying to put out the resulting blaze. Another person was injured during the attack.

Police spokeswoman Marie Verbeck confirmed the death, and said a suspect has been arrested in connection with the fire. Police are not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident.

Belgium's interior minister Joëlle Milquet said: "This person went in [to the mosque] hurling statements linked to the Syrian conflict. It appears to be a problem between Sunnis and Shias ... Belgium will not tolerate this type of act and the importing of this type of conflict on its territory".

She stressed that details on the motive for the crime are unclear. The area around Anderlecht is home to a large number of Muslim immigrants. The last imam to have been killed in an attack in Belgium's capital was Saudi Abdullah Muhammad al Ahdal, who was shot in 1989.