A week after the body of anti-Assad preacher and lecturer Abdul Hadi Arwani was found in a parked car in North London, police have made two arrests as searches of a number of London addresses continue.
One of those locations investigated by police is the West London An Noor mosque, where Arwani was formerly an Imam. One of the men has been identified as Leslie Cooper, 36, of Nightingale road in Brent. He was remanded in custody at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court and will appear at the Old Bailey tomorrow. A second 61-year-old unidentified man was arrested yesterday, reports the Evening Standard.
A police spokesman said their officers were working hard to treat the Islamic community with respect during their search: “As part of the ongoing investigation, officers are carrying out a number of searches of addresses in London including areas within the An Noor Cultural and Community Centre in West London.
“All officers involved in the search of the Mosque are sensitive to the impact that their presence will have and are aware that this action may cause concern in the local community.
“We have been in contact with trusted community Muslim advisors this afternoon to reassure them that the action is necessary and that the premises will re-open as quickly as possible.”
Although at the time of the killing police insisted they remained “open minded” about the potential motivation for the killing, the investigation was quickly taken over by counter-terror police. The “execution-style” murder of the former Imam, who claimed to have witnessed a massacre at the hands of the Syrian government in his youth before he fled to the United Kingdom, has been widely supposed to have been the work of agents in the employ of Syria.
The rump Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is presently fighting a brutal land and air war against Islamic State militants who have occupied a significant proportion of historic Syrian territory in the course of establishing the new Caliphate. It is unclear why at a time they are fighting for their existence the Syrian state would devote resources to settling scores with retired preachers living abroad.