Portsmouth Muslim leaders condemn Woolwich atrocity

The closed road on Artillery Place near the scene of the murder in Woolwich, south London''Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
The closed road on Artillery Place near the scene of the murder in Woolwich, south London''Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

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PORTSMOUTH’S Muslim leaders have strongly condemned the barbaric killing of a British soldier in London - and called for calm in the community.

The message comes as a soldier was murdered in broad daylight in front of horrified passers-by in Woolwich yesterday.

Two men shot by police after the incident are believed to be British citizens with Nigerian connections who converted to a radical form of Islam.

But they are not thought to have links to terror groups based in Nigeria, such as the jihadist organisation Boko Haram.

Shortly after the killing in Woolwich, one man - his hands covered in blood- was filmed by a passer-by, saying he carried out the attack because British soldiers killed Muslims every day.

Mohammad Mukith, president of Portsmouth Central Mosque in Fratton, said there had been no attacks or aggression shown towards the mosque or its members.

He said: ‘This is stupid and it creates problems.

‘It’s nothing to do with Islam.

‘This is terrorism.

‘Islam does not allow any kind of aggression. Islam is a religion of peace.

‘This is just stupid people trying to make a name for themselves and get in the media.

‘I strongly condemn it.

‘I am sorry these things are happening in a country like England.

‘There are so many religious people living here without any problems.

‘I am very sorry for the person who was attacked and my sorrow goes to the family.’

He added: ‘I am shocked and surprised to see it happening.

‘I hope they will punish (the offenders).

‘If people see anything happening in the street, report it to the police and try to be calm and peaceful.’

A statement from Hampshire police said: ‘We are advising the public to stay “alert but not alarmed” following tragic terrorist incident in London.’

Anti-terror police have been preparing to question the two men shot and injured after the Woolwich soldier killing as details about their backgrounds began to emerge.

Sources said both men, who are being treated in hospital, are believed to be British citizens with Nigerian connections who converted to a radical form of Islam. But they are not thought to have links to terror groups based in Nigeria, such as the jihadist organisation Boko Haram.

The news emerged as security chiefs and politicians met to discuss their response to the “barbaric” attack. Arriving for a meeting of the Government’s Cobra crisis committee, mayor of London Boris Johnson said it was wrong to link the murder with British foreign policy or the actions of Britain’s armed forces overseas.

Mr Johnson said: “The fault lies wholly and exclusively in the warped and deluded mindset of the people who did it.” The mayor also urged Londoners to “go about their lives in the normal way”.

Security was tight on Thursday at the army barracks near the scene of the killing. The Ministry of Defence said: “As a result of the incident in Woolwich, a number of additional security measures have been put in place. As you would expect, we would not talk about the details of these measures.”

Sources denied reports that military personnel had been told not to wear uniforms off base. Relatives of the dead soldier have been informed, though he has yet to be named.

Prime Minister David Cameron was briefed by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on the murder investigation before chairing the meeting of Cobra at 10 Downing Street. In a message on Twitter, Mr Cameron said: “I have been updated by the commissioner and will chair Cobra shortly. I will make a statement on this sickening killing this morning.”

The men are in separate London hospitals being treated for injuries after they were shot by police at the scene. One of the attackers behind the barbaric killing was filmed wielding a bloodied meat cleaver, saying: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”

In the chilling footage, he explains his terrifying actions. “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” he is heard to say in the clip, obtained by ITV News.

The attacker, who spoke clear English without a foreign accent, is then seen walking towards the victim, who is lying in the street. Another man is standing by the damaged car. The incident occurred some 200 yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks, adjacent to Woolwich Common, the historical home of the Royal Artillery.