Police have arrested a man on suspicion of attempted murder after a prayer leader was stabbed at a mosque in central London.
Officers were called to the London Central Mosque near Regent’s Park just after 3 p.m. local time and found a man in his 70s with stab injuries, London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The victim has been taken to hospital and his injuries are not life-threatening, said police, who are not treating the incident as terror-related.
Images and videos posted to social media appear to show officers restraining a man in a red sweater on the floor of the mosque.
Eyewitnesses told CNN there were around 100 people in the mosque at the time, and several helped pin the assailant to the ground. Some said they had seen the attacker attend the mosque in recent weeks.
One video posted online showed a knife on the floor next to the man.
“A 29-year-old man, who is believed to have been attending prayers, was arrested inside the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder,” police said in a statement.
“He has been taken into custody at a central London police station. A crime scene has been put in place. Enquiries continue.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply saddened” by the incident, adding: “It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan added: “Every Londoner is entitled to feel safe in their place of worship & I want to reassure London’s communities that acts of violence in our city will not be tolerated.”
Police are providing extra resources to the area, Khan said.
In a statement, the mosque said: “there was an Incident today at London Central Mosque where an unknown individual attacked and stabbed the muazzin (the person who makes the call to prayer) during Asr Prayer around 3 p.m.
“The attacker was apprehended by the worshipers until the police arrived and arrested him. The muazzin did not sustain any life-threatening injuries but was seriously injured and is being treated at the hospital.”
Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, described the attack as “extremely worrying.”
“We must have no hesitation in condemning such evil,” Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation, added in a statement. “Mosques and all places of worship are sacred and should be protected.”
The London Central Mosque mosque is a key place of worship for Muslims in London, regularly attracting a large number of visitors and worshipers.
The site was opened by King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1944. The mosque, together with the Islamic Cultural Centre, was built on land that was gifted to the Muslim community in Britain by the government, according to the mosque’s website.
The main prayer hall of the mosque can hold more than 5,000 worshipers at a time, and its gold-coloured dome and tall minaret have become an integral part of the north London skyline.