A former imam at a west London mosque known for his staunch criticism of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been found dead with gunshot wounds.
A murder investigation was launched after a man named locally as Syrian-born Abdul Hadi Arwani, the former imam at An-noor mosque, was discovered in his car in Wembley, north-west London, on Tuesday morning.
The Metropolitan police, who have not formally identified the man, say he was discovered sitting in a dark-coloured Volkswagen Passat in Greenhill, at the junction with The Paddocks in Wembley.
Officers were called to Wembley by the London ambulance service in response to reports of a man found suffering what are believed to be gunshot injuries to his chest.
A postmortem examination will be arranged in due course, the Met said.
Supporters posted tributes to the preacher on Twitter, with one person writing: “It seems like the entire community is in a state of mourning.”
Arwani studied in Jordan before moving to the UK where he taught in Slough and West London, according to the London College for Islamic Studies, which describes him as an authority on marriage and divorce.
He was also known for his criticism of Assad regime, which he described as “more than criminal…less than animals”. During the 2012 Syria Crisis Week he spoke about his memories of his home country, including his experience of the 1982 Hama massacre that occurred when he was aged 16. Arwani said he was forced to flee Syria after he was sentenced with capital punishment for taking pictures of the aftermath of the massacre.
The investigation into his death is being carried out by detectives from the Met’s homicide and major crime command.
A police statement said: “At this very early stage detectives retain an open mind regarding the possible motive.”
They appealed for anyone in the area from about 10am who may have seen a dark-coloured VW Passat or anything suspicious to get in touch. Local roads have been sealed off as the investigation continues.