Counter-terrorism officers question driver of white van
One man has been killed and 10 injured after a man drove a van into pedestrians near a north London mosque early on Monday morning in what police are treating as a terrorist attack.
Worshippers were leaving the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park Mosque shortly after midnight when the vehicle drove onto the pavement and struck a group of people.
Police arrested a 48 year-old man after the incident and Scotland Yard said there were no other suspects. Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said “there is now an ongoing investigation by our Counter Terrorism Command to establish why this attack was carried out”.
Eyewitness Abdul Rahman told the BBC he struck the attacker and helped subdue him.
“When the guy came out from his van he wanted to escape, run away and he was saying ‘I want to kill Muslims. I want to kill Muslims.’ I hit him on his stomach... and then me and the other guys... we held him to the ground until he couldn’t move. We stopped him until the police came.”
Witnesses said that an imam from the mosque protected the driver of the van from angry members of the public until the police arrived.
Theresa May said police were treating the incident “as a potential terrorist attack” and called a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee for later on Monday. It would be the third fatal terrorist incident in Britain within a month, following the suicide bombing at Manchester Arena on May 22nd and the attack at London Bridge on June 3rd.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the attack was deliberate and targeted innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing Ramadan prayers.
“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,” he said.
Police initially released a brief statement on the incident. Nearly four hours later they added more information:
“Officers attended alongside other emergency services and found and tended to a number of casualties. One man was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers are in the process of informing next of kin. A post mortem examination will be scheduled due course.
“Eight people injured were taken to three separate hospitals; two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
“At this stage there are no reports of any persons having suffered any knife injuries. The driver of the van - a man aged 48 - was found detained by members of public at the scene and then arrested by police in connection with the incident.
“He has been taken to hospital as a precaution, and will be taken into custody once discharged. He will also be subject of a mental health assessment in due course.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) intially said worshippers were among the casualties. A tweet from the MCB said: “We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left #finsburyparkmosque.”
The council later released a statement saying that it was aware that people were describing the incident as a “terror attack”.
Harun Khan, the secretary general of the MCB, said: “During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. My prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Images and video posted to Twitter showed police vehicles blocking the street and a cordon in place. More than a dozen emergency vehicles could be seen near the UKCG Help Centre at the junction of Seven Sisters Road and the A503 Tollington Road.
One resident told the Press Association he jumped out of the way as the van struck pedestrians. The man, who did not want to be named, said: “The gentleman went straight down this road, people were just conversing, talking, just doing what we’re doing.
“And he just came into all of us. There was a lot of people. We got told to move straight away. I was shocked, shocked, shocked. There were bodies around me. Thank God I just moved to the side, I just jumped. Everyone is hurt. Everyone is actually hurt.”
Another witness, Abdikadar Warfa, told the Guardian he and and others caught hold of the van driver, who threw kicks and punches as he tried to escape. He said: “He tried to run away, he tried to escape. Some people were hitting him. He was fighting to run away.
“I heard the sound of the van crashing. One person was under the van,some were run over.
“My friend said he had to lift the van, I was busy with a man who tried to escape. My friend said he said some words, but I didn’t hear it.”
One witness, who asked not to be named by the Guardian, said: “I was sitting in a cafe. My cousin was injured, he’s in hospital now. Someone told me two people were stuck under the van. People tried to lift the van up. Police were quick to the scene.”
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