LONDON: A van ploughed into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque early on Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in what was being treated as the latest terrorist attack to hit Britain.
The 48-year-old driver of the van, who police believe acted alone, was detained by people at the scene and then arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
The Finsbury Park mosque in north London said the van “deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers” at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House shortly after midnight.
Others linked the attack to an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly since the London Bridge rampage on June 3 that left eight people dead, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.
“This was an attack on London and all Londoners and we should all stand together against extremists whatever their cause,” said Neil Basu, senior counter-terrorism officer for the Metropolitan Police.
He added that it had “all the hallmarks” of a terrorist attack.
It unfolded as a man was receiving first aid from members of the public in an unrelated incident. The man later died, though it is not yet clear if his death was linked to the attack, Basu said.
Ten people were hurt, all of them Muslims, with eight of them requiring hospital treatment.
Two of them were in a very serious condition, police said.
A witness, Abdiqadir Warra, told AFP that the van “drove at people” and that some of the victims were carried for several meters along the road.
“He was shouting: ‘All Muslims, I want to kill all Muslims’,” another witness, Khalid Amin, told BBC television.
Amateur video footage seen by AFP showed at least three people laying on the ground, including one who was receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Basu praised the local community’s actions, adding that their “restraint in the circumstances was commendable.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said that her thoughts were with the victims and their families, and that she would chair a Cobra emergency cabinet meeting this morning.
Prayers on the pavement
The use of a vehicle to mow down pedestrians drew horrifying parallels with the London Bridge attack, when three men drove a van into pedestrians before embarking on a stabbing spree, as well as with another car and knife rampage in Westminster in March.
This time, however, the attacker appears to have deliberately targeted at Muslims.
“Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia and this is the most violent manifestation to date,” said Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body.
Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, described it as a “cowardly attack which is no different from the attacks in Manchester or London,” referring to the suicide bombing in Manchester in northwest England on May 22, which left 22 people dead.
“Our community is in shock,” he said, urging people attending prayers to remain vigilant, a warning that was echoed by police.
“Extra policing resources have been deployed across London in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan. I would urge everyone to remain calm and vigilant,” Basu said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was a “horrific terrorist attack” aimed at “innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.”