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London mosque stabbing: Man arrested for attempted murder after attack

Images posted to social media showed a white man in a red hooded top, jeans and bare feet being pinned to the floor by police officers inside the mosque.
Image: London Central Mosque
Police officers outside the London Central Mosque on Thursday. Simon Dawson / Reuters

LONDON — A man was arrested for attempted murder after a stabbing Thursday at a mosque in central London, police said.

Officers were called to the London Central Mosque at 3:10 p.m. local time (10:10 a.m. ET), the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. The mosque is less than 3 miles from Buckingham Palace.

"A man in his 70s was found with stab injuries," the statement said, adding that he was taken to a hospital where his condition was "assessed as non life-threatening."

A 29-year-old man, who is believed to have been attending prayers, was arrested inside the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder, the statement said. Detectives investigating the incident do not believe it to be terror-related, it added.

Images posted to social media showed a white man in a red hooded top, jeans and bare feet being pinned to the floor by police officers inside the mosque, as others, including a small child, watched. One video showed a knife on the floor under a plastic chair.

In statement posted to it's website, the London Central Mosque said the victim was the mosque's muezzin, who is appointed to lead the call to prayer. He was doing that when he was stabbed, it said.

"The attacker was apprehended by the worshippers until the police arrived and arrested him," it said, adding that the victim was "seriously injured."

An eyewitness told the U.K.'s Press Association news agency that the suspect had been a regular in the mosque, and had been seen at least six months ago.

Abi Watik, 59, said the victim had been stabbed once in the right shoulder moments after prayers had started, and he believed the suspect had waited for that moment.

He said: "He was praying behind him and then he stabbed him."

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Mustafa Field, director of the Faiths Forum for London, told NBC News the victim, a grandfather, was "a highly respected member of the community.

"It is very shocking," he said. "The perpetrator has been attending the mosque for the last six months. He was stopped almost immediately by members."

Thanking the worshippers who helped to detain the suspect, police Chief Superintendent Helen Harper said: "This was a profoundly shocking incident inside a place of worship and an urgent investigation is being carried out into the circumstances."

She added: "This incident has undoubtedly caused a great deal of concern and we are working as swiftly as possible to establish the circumstances. No other suspects are being sought at this time.”

The attack came less than 24 hours after a gunman killed 10 people in two attacks outside hookah lounges in the German city of Hanau, before fatally shooting himself at his home.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that early indications suggested it was a racist, far-right attack.