The attack on a Shiite mosque in a Brussels suburb sent shock waves across the Belgian capital and raised a lot of questions about the intentions and the identity of the culprit who allegedly shouted Syria-related slogans during the attack.
According to one of the eyewitnesses, the attack, in which the mosque’s imam was killed and several others injured, was carried out by a man who threw a Molotov cocktail at the building of the Islamic Cultural Association, which houses al-Imam al-Reda Mosque in the municipality of Anderlecht.
On his way out of the mosque, the eyewitness added, the attacker, who tried to escape but was arrested shortly after, started shouting slogans in support of the Syrian revolution and against all states that support Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Vice president of the Belgian Muslim Council, Isabelle Praile, said the attack was most probably carried out by Salafis. The mosque, she added, was under police protection years ago after its administration had received several threats from ultra-conservative Islamists.
A Lebanese doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the attacker first broke the glass of a window on the first floor of the center, where the mosque is located, and threw a bottle of Molotov cocktail inside.
“He also had a bottle of benzene, so the building started burning down fast and mosque imam Sheikh Abdullah Dadou was inside,” he told Al Arabiya in a phone interview.
The doctor added that Dadou tried to put out the fire with the help of a Lebanese employee at the association, but failed.
“Both tried to get out of the mosque, but Dadou couldn’t make it. He died of smoke inhalation.”
The doctor added that Dadou, a 47-year-old Moroccan, had very good relations with all those who knew him.
Dadou’s body was carried out of the mosque 45 minutes after the fire had started where a crowd of around 50 people gathered at the scene.
According to the police, the attacker is a 43-year-old Muslim. However, no statements on his nationality or origin have been issued yet.
Al-Imam al-Reda Mosque, which accommodates 2,000 worshippers, is the biggest of four Shiite mosques in Belgium, home to half a million Muslims. The number of Shiite Muslims in Belgium is estimated at 7,000 who mostly hail from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Morocco.
The municipality of Anderlecht, in which the mosque is located, is home to dozens of companies selling used cars and mostly owned by Lebanese-Belgians.
The mosque fire is the first attack to target Muslim in Belgium since 1988 when the manager and imam of a mosque affiliated to the Brussels-based Islamic Center, Saudi sheikh Abdullah al-Ahdal, was shot dead.
The attacker turned out to have been a member of a pro-Iranian Lebanese group that wanted to eliminate Ahdal for his objection to a fatwa issued by the late Iranian Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khomeini and which sanctioned the killing of Indian writer Salman Rushdie for his novel “Satanic Verses” for deriding Islam and the Prophet.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)