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Worshippers confronted with chaotic scenes as they left the Whitechapel mosque last night chased off rioters and formed a protective cluster to stop thugs from entering the building.

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Hundreds of Muslims from across Tower Hamlets and beyond were leaving the East London Mosque after evening prayers when violent mobs struck the area at around 10pm.

While women and children were ushered back into the mosque, a hardcore of worshippers confronted the gangs as they attacked shops and buildings on Whitechapel Road.

A ten-minute standoff ensued, with rioters attempting to mingle in the with the crowds in a bid to hide themselves as riot police closed in on the area.

Salman Farsi, the mosque’s communication chief who was witnessed the scenes, said: “Worshippers chased them away. There was a lot of shouting. A missile was hurled towards direction of mosque and the atmosphere was very tense.

“I don’t think any member of our community is going to stand for vandalism. We’re going to stand here united.

“Our mosque volunteers and stewards were calming people and guiding them back into the mosque. We advised young people to keep away from the riots and go straight home after prayers.”

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, visited the area today and said she was told by shopkeepers and residents that they believed the rioters had come from other boroughs to cause trouble.

She said: “The worshippers must have been very frightened. Everyone is adamant these people are not going to divide our community. The rioters tried to enter the mosque with the intention of causing damage and the worshippers stood firmly against them.”

Whitechapel Road, Bethnal Green Road and Roman Road saw the worst of the damage with shops looted and windows smashed in.

Tower Hamlets Police said five officers were injured in the riots, which started at around 10pm.

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