By Aishah Ali
A 25 year-old student from Ukraine was sentenced at the Old Bailey for 40 years. He admitted the racist murder of 82 year-old Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from his local mosque as well as planting explosives near three West Midlands mosques.
Pavlo Lapshyn had only been in the UK for 5 days when he stabbed pensioner Mohammed Saleem three times on April 29. He was walking home from evening prayers from a mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham.
Later Lapshyn planted three bombs outside mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton in June and July.
After his initial arrest he told police that he had toured the area “looking for a suitable opportunity.” He explained to the police, “I would like to increase racial hatred” and the reason why he had targeted the mosques, “Because they are not white – and I am white.”
Saleem’s daughter Shazia Khan said: “Our dad was a lovely, kind man who left prayers for the last time that night. He did not do anything to deserve this horrific killing other than being a Muslim.”
“He was targeted simply because of his faith. His beard and his clothing represented who he was. Pavlo chose to kill him that night with only that intention in mind.”
Lapshyn was on placement at software company Delcam when he was arrested. Det Supt Shaun Edwards, from West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “We found part-made devices in Lapshyn’s room plus chemicals and bomb-making equipment, so it is clear he planned to place further devices with the intention of killing or maiming innocent members of the public.”
“All three of the devices he detonated were powerful but his final attack in Tipton was the first to feature shrapnel and nails. He placed this near the mosque’s car park with the intention of hitting worshippers as they arrived for prayers.”
Lapshyn planted the first improvised explosive device outside Walsall’s Aisha Mosque in Rutter Street on June 21. Police were alerted the following day and no injuries were reported. A week later the bomb disposal team found a much larger explosive on a roundabout opposite Wolverhampton Central Mosque, but had minimal damage.
Then on July 12 the nail bomb was placed in Kanzul Iman Masjid mosque in Tipton causing nails and metal fragments to scatter accords the building. The court heard that a change in Friday prayer times as the month of Ramadan had begun meant that the blast did not cause mass injuries.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) welcomed the sentencing telling The Muslim News “There are many lessons to be drawn from this case: the response of the authorities, and our collective unwillingness to treat anti-Muslim hatred seriously.”