Video shows congregants holding down man accused of stabbing Imam at Paterson mosque

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, April 10, 2023
Video shows congregants holding down man accused of stabbing Imam
An arrest has been made after a religious leader in Paterson, New Jersey was stabbed during a prayer session on Sunday morning. Darla Miles has the story.

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- An imam is in the hospital Monday after a stabbing during prayers at a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey on Sunday.

Imam Sayed Elnakib, a husband and father to three boys, is expected to make a full recovery.

Faith leaders at the Omar Mosque say the suspect, 32-year-old Serif Zorba, has worshiped with them before, but is not a member.

Eyewitness News reporter Darla Miles spoke to the Mevlana Mosque president who over the phone, believes Zorba prayed with them Saturday night, just before the pre-dawn attack.

"He was normal, like he come in and pray and go," said Hasan Oren, President of Mevlana Mosque.

Zorba entered a not guilty plea through his attorney on Monday afternoon. Speaking through a Turkish interpreter, Zorba said he "didn't do anything."

"They're heroes, they really are," said Abdul Hamdan, attorney for Omar Mosque.

Instead of kneeling back down to pray, surveillance video shows a man popping up and dashing to the front of the room, and off camera, the 65-year-old imam of the Omar Mosque was stabbed multiple times.

Cell phone video from moments later on shows a man in a beige hoodie being physically restrained down on the ground by a group of men. The worshippers made sure the suspect did not get away.

"As you see in that video probably more than half of the congregants pursue this individual, notwithstanding him yielding two knives. They were so brave and were able to hold him and apprehend him until local authorities showed up," Hamdan said.

Paterson police can be seen removing the suspect from inside the mosque on Getty Avenue.

Serif Zorba has been arrested and charged with attempted murder and weapons charges. He is being held without bail and will appear in court again this Thursday.

Elnakib suffered two stab wounds to his back and is expected to survive.

"There is a very thorough investigation going on, no stone will be left unturned," said Major Fred Fife with the NJ Attorney General's Office.

With 10 days of Ramadan remaining, all 12 mosques in the city will have an increased marked and unmarked police presence.

"The police department is going to enact some very specific plans that I think will give this community a sense of safety," Fife said.

"More people coming to pray means there will more a police presence, not just at this mosque, but at all houses of worship," said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.

Councilman Al Abdel-Aziz posted an update on his Facebook shortly after the stabbing was reported.

"I am relieved to hear that Imam Sayed Elnakib is in stable condition and wish him a full and speedy recovery. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time," the councilman said.

This is believed to be an isolated attack.

The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office is asking anyone with additional information about this incident to contact their tips line at 1-877-370-PCPO or or contact the Paterson Police Department Detective Bureau at 973-321-1120.

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