SURELY, THIS situation could've been handled better.
One leader of an Overbrook mosque is behind bars - and another might join him soon - after Philadelphia police said the two men tried to lop off the hand of a worshipper who had supposedly stolen money from the mosque.
The macabre tale started to unfold as the sun began to fill the morning sky on Monday.
A prayer service had just ended at the Al-Masjid Ur-Razzaq Ul-Karim mosque, which is housed in a decrepit, Hitchcockian building on 63rd Street near Lebanon Avenue.
Merv Mitchell, the mosque's emir, and the imam, whose name was not released, confronted a 46-year-old man who usually helps organize prayer services, Lt. John Walker, of Southwest Detectives, said yesterday.
Mitchell and the imam accused the man of stealing jars of money from the mosque, and then dragged him down a set of steps in the building, Walker said.
The three men ended up in the back yard, where things quickly got worse for the middle-aged man.
"They threw the victim to the ground and held his right arm against a log," Walker said.
"One of the offenders grabbed a machete from inside the mosque, and struck the victim near his wrist," he said. "The blade cut through some of his tendons."
The victim was treated at Mercy Hospital and later released.
Walker said investigators obtained a search warrant for the mosque on Thursday, and found the machete that was used in the attack.
Mitchell, 37, who has several aliases, including Mabul Shoatz, was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and related offenses.
Court records show that Mitchell has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for robbery, theft, burglary and carrying a firearm without a license.
An arrest warrant has not yet been issued for the mosque's imam, Walker said.
According to city records, the mosque's owner, Nothinne Mabul Mitchell, owes $80,326 in back real estate taxes.
The Department of Licenses and Inspections deemed the property unsafe in May 2013, and issued violations for a partially collapsed wall, roof and ceiling.
No one answered the door at the mosque last night. Sunlight trickled through large cracks on the roof of the front porch, and a small cat slept peacefully on an old chair.
A "No Trespassing" sign hung next to the front door, warning members of law enforcement that they could face a $10 million fine or 10 years in prison for hindering the rights of non-U.S. citizens.