Teen charged with terrorism over Sydney bishop stabbing

FILE PHOTO: Scenes outside Christ The Good Shepherd Church after a knife attack took place during a service on Monday night in Sydney

By Renju Jose and Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Thousands of Muslims gathered in mosques across Sydney for regular prayers on Friday despite concerns about retaliatory attacks after police charged a 16-year-old boy with a terrorism offence over the stabbing of a Sydney bishop earlier this week.

Police charged a 16-year-old boy with a terrorism offence on Thursday for the alleged stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at a church on Monday. Footage from the scene showed the boy restrained by the congregation and shouting at Emmanuel for insulting Islam.

Police said they will allege he stabbed the bishop, who is in stable condition in hospital, as many as six times. The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The boy was refused bail.

A mob of thousands descended on the church after the attack, where they clashed with police and demanded the boy be brought out to face justice.

Hours afterwards the Lakemba mosque, one of Australia's largest, received fire bomb threats.

Standing outside the mosque on Friday as worshippers streamed past, community leader Gamel Kheir said Muslim women were worried they would be singled out and those who worked for the mosque overseer had been asked to work from home for now.

"Our real fear is one of targeting women who are identifiable through their head scarves walking through the streets or shopping centres. At the moment they're scared to do that," said Kheir, secretary of the Lebanese Muslim Association, which oversees three mosques including Lakemba.

Coming only days after a mass stabbing in Bondi, the attack on Emmanuel and the possibility of reprisals have put the normally peaceful Sydney on edge. Gun and knife crime is rare in the city, one of the world's safest.

On his way to pray at the mosque on Friday, Abdul Masri, 32, told Reuters he was concerned about the possibility of further incidents.

"I don't fear, but I still worry, you know," he said.

Bishop Emmanuel on Thursday pleaded for peace and said he had forgiven his attacker in an audio message recorded in hospital.

Kheir thanked the priest for his message of forgiveness and calm.

"At the end of the day we all share the same message, we share the same land, we all share the same community."

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Lewis Jackson in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed and Sonali Paul)