[Explosive material and debris were found next to yet another mosque – Wolverhampton Central Mosque on July 18. Photo: Aishah Ali/The Muslim News]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
West Midlands Police has launched a counter terrorism investigation following a suspected nail bomb attack near a Tipton mosque on July 12. The bomb sprayed nails and debris into the air, wrecking vehicles and smashing windows.
As we go to print explosive material and debris were found next to yet another mosque – Wolverhampton Central Mosque on July 18. This is a third mosque in W Midlands within a span of weeks that has been targeted by bombs.
Two Ukranian men were arrested in Small Heath, Birmingham, on July 19. They were being questioned on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism following blasts near the Tipton mosque and the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in the Caldmore area of Walsall (see p13).
The Tipton explosion happened on a disused railway line near Binfield Street at the back of the mosque at about 1pm when there should have been hundreds of worshippers inside and near Kanzul Iman Masjid. Fortunately, the first Friday prayers in Ramadan had been put forward by an hour to 2pm, so there were just three people in the area.
Counter terrorism officers were called in and the surrounding area was closed off for several hours.
On the following day police carried out a controlled explosion on a device found in a garden close to the mosque but refused to confirm if the part was a component of the nail bomb. “We would not be able to say until it has been analysed,” said a spokesman for West Midlands police.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Cann said: “We can’t say for definite the explosion was intended to damage the mosque – but the most likely conclusion is it was intended to cause serious harm to people or property. That leads us to have a working assumption, based on what we know now, that this is an act of terrorism.
“We have a large number of experts and specialists working on this case and I’m confident we’ll get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
“We have officers visiting local mosques and other places of worship to offer reassurance…and the response from the mosque has been very supportive. This is greatly helping our enquiries.”
Binfield Street and surrounding roads were cordoned off after the explosion as a precaution whilst police and bomb disposal experts explored the scene and made it safe; with the exception of Binfield Street the road closures have now been lifted.
Spokesperson for Kanzul Iman Masjid, Imam Ghulam Rasool, vowed that the community would “stand united together”.
He said: “We are deeply shocked and dismayed at what’s happened…on behalf of the local community we condemn this senseless act.
“It’s important everyone remains calm and not let this incident cause disharmony. We have worked hard to build good community relations in Tipton and will not allow this to divide us or undermine cohesion in the borough.
“We are working closely with the police to support their investigation and efforts to track down the perpetrators as soon as possible.”
Rai Khan, who was inside the mosque at the time of the suspected nail bomb explosion, said it felt like “being in a war zone”. There were two others when the bomb exploded, the caretaker and one man just pulling in to the car park.
“A few of the windows were smashed and a couple of cars damaged. It could have been so much worse,” he said.
Residents in Tipton believed the attack had also been timed to coincide with the day of the funeral of Drummer Rigby in Bury.
More Islamophobic attacks p 4,10,11,13
Walsall mosque bomb attack p11