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Monday 18 December 2017

Tragic doctor flies home as family murdered

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wood Hill, Leicester, that claimed the lives of four members of the same family
Firefighters tackle the blaze in Wood Hill, Leicester, that claimed the lives of four members of the same family

THREE children and their mother who were killed in an arson attack on their house lived and studied in Ireland for several years before leaving to pursue an Islamic education in the UK.

Police believe the attack was a case of mistaken identity.

The children, 19-year-old daughter Zainab and sons Bilal (17) and Jamal (15), as well as their mother, Shehnila Taufiq, who was in her 40s, died in their bedrooms in their home in Leicester, in the east midlands of England.

The family had strong links to Ireland after living here for a number of years, and Mrs Taufiq's neurosurgeon husband, Mohammad Sattar, had continued working in Ireland.

He was working in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin yesterday morning when he got the devastating news, and he departed immediately for the UK.

The fire occurred at 12.30am, several hours after a man was killed in nearby Kent Street in the city and police said they could not rule out a link between the two events. Last night they said they are investigating whether the fire had been intentionally started as a revenge attack.

Yesterday, Dr Ali Selim of the Islam Cultural Centre in

Clonskeagh, Dublin, told how he educated the three children after they arrived in Ireland from Pakistan.

Dr Selim said the children had moved to England with their mother four or five years ago to study religion further and believed the intention was for the children to become teachers of Islam and to return to Ireland.

"They only moved to the UK four or five years ago for the sake of study. The children were studying there but the plan was to come back to Ireland," Dr Selim told the Irish Independent.

"The father is a medical consultant, the mother is a doctor. So what would you expect the family to be? They were very clever and very smart children."

He said the children were devoted to the study of Islam and said their success in learning to recite the Koran, despite not speaking Arabic, was almost unheard of in this country.

"Very recently the children made a remarkable achievement, which was the memorisation of the whole Koran by heart. Their father wanted them to have more Islamic education because I think his plan was to have them as teachers of Islam.

"They were very devoted to their faith. The Koran is almost the same size as the Bible and for a child to learn that book by heart they need to be really devoted to this job, but they managed to learn the whole Koran and they didn't speak one Arabic word."

Dr Sattar is a consultant neurosurgeon and has been working in Beaumont and at the Blackrock and Hermitage private clinics. Colleagues there expressed their sympathy.

The family is originally from Pakistan and had a home in Ireland for at least 15 years.

The children frequently visited their father here and had celebrated the festival of Ramadan in Dublin last month.

Dr Sattar founded an Islamic prayer Centre in Castleknock, where the family lived. Yesterday, hundreds of mourners descended on the Hawah Community Centre to pay their respects to a "most humble man".

"He set this up three years ago and was so dedicated to it. He was working in hospitals but somehow still had time to set this up and keep it going," said close family friend Mujahed Omer.

"He loved this place and loved to see Musilms from all over coming together and praying. He was already looking at establishing a new centre and had already got the land. We think the plan was that his sons would study in England, then return here and would run that new centre."Dr Sattar would often travel to England at weekends, Dr Selim revealed.

"The father is very active in the Muslim community so people would know him very well."

The children's mother was described by Dr Selim as a "well educated" woman who wanted the best for her children.

"She was a doctor herself and she was a very good, well educated mother. She very much wanted her children to be the best.

"It's a shocking tragedy for the Muslim Community in Ireland."

Dr Selim said, in addition to their studying, the children were very interested in cricket.

- Sam Griffin

Irish Independent

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