TORCHED - Times EXCLUSIVE - Mosque petrol bombed twice in a week
PUBLISHED: 18:25 17 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:50 25 August 2010
A BRAVE caretaker was hurt as he risked his life to save a mosque torched by arsonists in the second petrol bomb attack in a week. Mohamed Koheeallee, 62, raced to tackle 7ft flames at the Greenwich Islamic Centre in Plumstead Road at 12.15am on Tuesday.
A BRAVE caretaker was hurt as he risked his life to save a mosque torched by arsonists in the second petrol bomb attack in a week.
Mohamed Koheeallee, 62, raced to tackle 7ft flames at the Greenwich Islamic Centre in Plumstead Road at 12.15am on Tuesday.
Grabbing a bucket of water, he extinguished the fire as it spread inside but when he opened a fire exit, he was engulfed by flames burning his arm and his face.
Choking with smoke inhalation and despite his injuries, he carried on dousing the fire until the mosque was safe but when he tried to tackle the source of the blaze he was pushed back by its intensity.
Holy texts, including the most sacred in Islam - the Koran - were burned.
Mr Koheeallee, who believes the attack was racially motivated, was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital by ambulance to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns and was later discharged.
He said: "It makes me feel really bad to see the burnt holy scriptures. If these people have a problem they should be brave enough to say it to my face, but not like this."
The caretaker had also dealt with another arson attack at the mosque which had been less serious but had taken place a week before at approximately the same time of night.
A chain that locks two heavy duty metal gates at the rear of the centre - which were put in place after the London 7/7 bombings - had been cut.
In March 2006, Mr Koheeallee was attacked in the mosque with a hammer, as reported in the Times.
The centre's director, Dr Tariq Abbasi, said "enough is enough," and has called on the new Greenwich borough commander Richard Wood to take action.
Dr Abbasi said: "This is as bad as it can get. Nobody deserves this. Seeing burnt copies of the Koran, the emotional impact has been devastating.
"Monetary loss is one thing, the building can be re-built, but the emotional scars can last for years.
"The Muslim community see this as a racist attack on a place of worship.
"If something like this happens anywhere in the world the reaction is not a good one.
"We want the borough commander to take action and for council leaders to understand that we are not prepared to accept it."
He said a racist minority may have been encouraged after BNP members won seats in the European elections.
The latest attacks come after Romanians in Belfast this week had to seek sanctuary in a church after being targeted by mobs believed to have links to racist group Combat 18.
Plumstead councillor, Sajid Jawaid praised the bravery of Mr Koheeallee, and called for the community to unite against the "mindless cowards" who attacked the mosque.
Mr Jawaid said: "These people are trying to divide the communities and sow the seeds of hate.
"We must work together to create a stronger and diverse community in the borough."
A spokesperson for Greenwich Police said: "Officers attended the scene and the cause of the fire is being investigated by the London Fire Brigade.
"A man suffering minor burns was taken by ambulance to a local hospital."
Enquiries into the circumstances of the fire continue. There have been no arrests.