The family of a murdered Birmingham shopkeeper blasted in the face with a shotgun, last night insisted he was innocent of any involvement in recent violent outbreaks in the area.
Mohammed Basharat, aged 24, died following a spate of bloody attacks in the streets of Lozells over the last fortnight, which saw a young black man gunned down and three Asians stabbed.
Mr Basharat's family have already lost one son, Mohammed Sabir, to gun crime in Lozells. Sabir, believed to be involved in the drugs trade, was shot 16 times.
Last night the family was being comforted by friends and relatives as they took in the news they would have to bury another son.
A spokesman for the grieving family said Wednesday's tragedy came "out of the blue" and Mr Basharat had been dedicated heart-and-soul to work and his young family.
Four months ago he bought Supermar, an Afro-Caribbean grocery shop in Villa Road, and was father to a son of four and a two-year-old daughter.
A friend claimed he had recently encountered trouble with a customer who had nursed a dispute with the former owner, and who had vowed to come back and 'sort him out'.
"He hadn't been involved in any violence as far as the family knows, and this attack came totally out of the blue," said Abid Iqbal, from Lozells.
"It is like when you work in a bank, and have no idea of who might come in or what might have led up to it. He was working seven days a week, from 5am to 10pm, going to the cash and carry every morning and in the shop until late at night.
"If someone has a young family and a business why should they get involved with other things? He was married to a Bangladeshi girl and supplying food to Afro-Caribbeans, so he was very multi-cultural."
The shooting took place at about 8.40pm on Wednesday as Mr Basharat was closing with his assistant.
After the shooting the sales assistant ran from Villa Road to the family home to break the news. Mr Basharat died in Heartlands Hospital that evening.
Friends and family paid their respects in a steady stream to the Victorian end-of-terrace home in Church Road.
"The family had been told that morning Basharat's uncle, his father's brother, had passed away. They are devastated. It is a double blow for them," said Mr Iqbal.
A murder incident room has been set up in the hunt for the killer of Mr Basharat, and 70 officers are still investigating the murder of Meshack Bernhard-Brown, on November 13.
At a media briefing yesterday at Thornhill Road Police Station Superintendent Tom Coughlan said they were not ruling out a link to earlier violence.
"Obviously there has been a lot of focus on a series of incidents," he said. "We are working closely with the community and keeping a completely open mind as to the motives involved or whether there was any relationship."
It is not yet known for certain whether there was any racial motivation.
"The criminal element has tried to create a war in this community," said Supt Coughlan. "The vast majority are law abiding citizens concerned about the actions of a few.
"During the past two weeks we have been working very hard to reassure the community by being a visible presence."
Nov 13 – 8pm, Meshack Bernhard-Brown gunned down in Melbourne Avenue, Newtown. Earlier in the evening at Lime Grove, Lozells, an 18-year-old man was knifed in the groin, and half an hour before that on nearby Archibald Road, one man was cut with a bottle and another slashed across the leg with a machete
Nov 16 – 9.20pm, two shopkeepers aged 20 and 27 blasted with a ball bearing or pellet gun on Nursery Road. Later that night gunshots exchanged between two cars as they raced along Burberry Road, Lozells
Nov 29 – Basharat Ali shot dead at his shop on Villa Road