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Belgian Muslim leaders urge calm after mosque attack

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 13 Mar 2012 14:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BRUSSELS, March 13 (Reuters) - Belgium's Muslim leaders called for calm on Tuesday after an attack on a mosque in a suburb of Brussels killed the imam and injured another man shortly after evening prayers.

Belgian media reported that the attacker was a member of the Salafists, a strict order within the Sunni branch of Islam, and said the incident was linked to tensions within the Muslim community. This could not be independently verified.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo condemned Monday's incident in which an unidentified man armed with an axe and a knife entered a Shi'ite mosque in the district of Anderlecht and ignited a can of fuel, setting the building ablaze.

The imam, named by police as Sheikh Abdallah Dadou, died from inhaling toxic fumes. The second man escaped with minor injuries, authorities said.

Around 10 people were in the mosque when the attacker entered, police said. The assailant was overwhelmed and detained until authorities arrived.

"My first thoughts go out to the victim and those close to him, and I strictly condemn the violence used," Di Rupo said.

The head of Belgium's Muslim community, Semsettin Ugurlu, issued a statement calling for calm. Around five percent of Belgium's 11 million people are Muslim.

"The Muslim executive of Belgium invites Muslims to unite their efforts and improve dialogue between all cultural strands of the community," Ugurlu said.

The Brussels public prosecutor said authorities were still trying to confirm the identity of the suspect and the motive.

After the attack, a crowd gathered outside the mosque but there were no disturbances. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Claire Davenport; editing by Robert Woodward)

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