PATERSON, N.J. (WPIX) – Morning prayers at a New Jersey mosque were interrupted with violence Sunday when an imam was stabbed mid-prayer.
The 65-year-old Sayed Elnakib, was rushed into emergency surgery and was in stable condition, a law enforcement source told Nexstar’s WPIX.
The incident happened at the Omar Mosque in Paterson at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, prosecutors said. Surveillance video obtained by WPIX shows the suspect in a hooded jacket rush through rows of kneeling congregants before allegedly attacking Elnakib.
Members of the mosque stopped the suspect before he could escape and held him down until law enforcement arrived, according to a mosque spokesperson.
“It’s shocking. It’s very shocking. We’re glad he’s in stable condition. Praying for him,” said congregant Abdul Hamden.
A mosque spokesperson said Elnakib was stabbed “at least two times in the back.”
The suspect, 32-year-old Serif Zorba, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Prosecutors said Zorba could face significant prison time if convicted of attempted murder.
The attack happened during Ramadan. It is considered one of the holiest months for Muslims, who typically observe by fasting, prayer, and reflection. Ramadan began on March 22 and will end on April 20.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and law enforcement officials are expected to announce plans to protect the mosque through the remainder of Ramadan. The city is expected to increase police presence around other mosques as well, officials said.