Rudolf Nikolli, Suspect in Albania Mosque Stabbing, Held by Civilians Until Police Arrived

An Albanian man who wounded five people with a knife at a mosque on Monday was restrained by civilians before police arrived.

The 34-year-old attacker, Rudolf Nikolli, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in the downtown area of the capital city of Tirana at 2:30 p.m. local time, according to police. The Top Channel private television station showed footage of civilians blocking Nikolli before police arrived. Police said they reacted immediately after the attack began and took him into custody.

The five men who were attacked were between the ages of 22 and 35. None of them received wounds considered to be life-threatening.

Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the men were in the middle of praying when Nikolli attacked them. The mosque has been filled with believers during the month of Ramadan, he added.

"We hope it was not a terrorist attack," said Kajala.

No motive for the attack has been determined, and an investigation is underway.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Albanian Man Prayer
A man wearing a protective facemask prays next to predefined space installed in order to follow the rules of social distancing imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr prayer, at The Grand Mosque of Durres in Albania, on May 24, 2020, on the first day of the Muslim festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Gent Shkullaku / AFP/Getty Images

Nikolli's father, Niko, told Balkanweb online media that his son has been depressed since last year after he wasn't allowed to leave for Italy. Rudolf had also been infected with the coronavirus.

"Though I am a Catholic, I have told him OK (to go to the mosque), because my wife is a Muslim. 'If you do not want to go to the church, go to the mosque as normal people do,' I've told him," he said, adding that his son was often prevented from entering mosques by worshippers because they told him he was a Christian.

Albania's 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Christian Catholic and Orthodox communities that have gotten along well with each other.

Police said Nikolli was from the northern town of Burrel and his religious background wasn't yet clear. Later, his father said that his son was converted to Islam by an imam in the town.