BRUSSELS - The suspected arsonist in a deadly attack on a Shiite mosque in the Belgian capital Brussels said Tuesday, March 13, that the assault was in revenge to the killings of thousands of civilians in Syria.
The man said he was shocked by the pictures of what was going on in Syria and wanted to do something to scare members of the community which was responsible for the violence, Jean-Marc Meilleur, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office, said, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The man, in his mid-30s, attacked the Rida Shiite mosque in Brussels with incendiary devices on Monday, putting it on fire. An imam died in the attack.
The arsonist, who presented himself as Sunni, told investigators he wanted to scare the Shiite community because of the killings of thousands of civilians in Syria by security troops of President Bashar Al-Assad, who is a Shiite.
It appears to be a problem between Sunnis and Shiites, Milquet told RTBF broadcaster.
Belgium will not tolerate this type of act and the importing of this type of conflict on its territory.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria in a bloody security crackdown by Assad's troops on anti-regime protestors since the uprising erupted a year ago.
Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed armed groups for the violence, saying they have killed 2,000 soldiers and police.
News from Syria cannot be independently verified as the government bans journalists from entering restive areas.
But the vice president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium (EMB), Isabelle Praile, rejected any links between conflicts abroad and the attack, saying it was an isolated case.
She stressed that Shiite and Sunni Muslims live in peace in Brussels.
Following the mosque arson, Belgian Muslim leaders called for calm.
"The Muslim executive of Belgium invites Muslims to unite their efforts and improve dialogue between all cultural strands of the community," Semsettin Ugurlu, the head of Belgium's Muslim community, said in a statement.
The call came after scores of angry Muslims gathered outside the mosque following the attack.
Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 - out of a 10-million-population - about half of them are from Moroccan origin, while 120,000 are from Turkish origin.
More than 20 percent of the population of Brussels is of Muslim origin coming from Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other African countries.
There are 77 mosques or prayer rooms in Brussels and over 300 across Belgium.The last time an imam was targeted in Brussels was in 1989 when Saudi-born Abdullah Muhammad al-Ahdal was shot dead.