Armed police were scrambled to an east London mosque on Thursday night after a “masked” gunman entered the building during Ramadan prayers before discharging a firearm outside.
The incident at the Seven Kings Mosque in Ilford comes two months after the Christchurch massacre and raised fears of a copycat attack in the capital.
Worshippers were part-way through evening prayers late on Thursday when the sound of a gunshot rang out.
A man, said to have had his face covered, was reported to have entered the mosque on High Road, but was made to leave before firing the gun.
Scotland Yard said early investigations suggested that a “blank firing handgun” had been discharged.
No injuries or damage to the building were reported and detectives were not treating the incident as terrorism-related, the force said.
Officers will continue to work closely with representatives from the mosque and are providing reassurance to the local community. Anyone with information is asked to contact officers via 101 quoting ref: 8585/09May
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) May 9, 2019
The incident comes amid heightened concerns over security at places of worship around the world. A mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand in March left 50 people dead, while a woman was killed when a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in California in April.
Last month nearly 260 people died in the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, which included a suicide bombing on a church.
Worshipper Ibraheem Hussain, 19, an apprentice data analyst at one of the Big Four city firms, said the incident left him concerned over the safety of worshippers during Ramadan.
“The main thing that was in my mind was that (due to the layout of the mosque) it could have gone very wrong,” he said.
“(Christchurch) comes to mind, it’s crazy to think this would happen in London, especially after everything that has happened.”
Police remain on High Road in Seven Kings following a firearm discharge. At this early stage, it is thought that the weapon was a blank firing handgun. There were no injuries or damage caused. The incident is not being treated as terrorism-related.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) May 9, 2019
Mr Hussain described hearing the gunshot around half an hour after prayers began.
He told the Press Association: “There’s three sections of the mosque and at taraweeh (evening prayers) during this time of Ramadan the mosque is packed out.
“We were upstairs in the classrooms and about 30 minutes into the night prayer a large noise went off. I just continued my prayer, it sounded like a firework or maybe something heavy had been dropped, so no-one really thought anything of it.
“After we finished … someone said it was a gunshot, someone had come into the mosque and he had a firearm on him. The managers had seen him, he was masked and acting suspicious and the firearm was let off.”
Several social media users also said the alleged armed man had his face covered.
Abdul Ahad wrote on Facebook: “During taraweeh prayers this evening there was an incident involving a firearm at Seven Kings masjid (mosque).
“A man with fully covered face entered the masjid during taraweeh prayers. Alhamdulillah no one injured or hurt, but one shot was fired and unfortunately he ran away.”
Following the incident the mosque’s imam urged people not to speculate over the gunman’s motives.
“There was a firearm incident outside Seven Kings Mosque tonight during Ramadan night prayers,” Mufti Suhail said.
“The suspect ran from the scene when stopped by brothers standing guard at the mosque.
“A shot was fired which fortunately did not hit anyone.”
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said he would be contacting the police about the incident.
I am aware of the reports of a man with a firearm at Seven Kings Mosque during prayers tonight and am relieved that no one appears to have been hurt or injured. Thank you to @MPSRedbridge for a swift response. I will in touch with Police in the morning re: mosque security.
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) May 9, 2019
Scotland Yard said the investigation was being led by detectives from the East Area Command Unit, although the Trident gang squad had been notified.
“Police were called at 10.45pm on Thursday, 9 May to reports that a man, believed to be in possession of a firearm, had entered a mosque on High Road in Seven Kings,” the force said.
“The man was ushered outside of the building by those inside. A gunshot was then heard.
“Officers, including firearms officers, attended. There were no reported injuries or damage to the building.
“At this early stage, ballistic evidence recovered from the scene suggests that the weapon was a blank firing handgun.
“Officers will continue to work closely with representatives from the mosque and are providing reassurance to the local community.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Borough officers via 101 quoting reference 8585/9May.