At least one person has died and eight others are injured in an attack on Muslims leaving a London mosque in what Britain’s largest Muslim organisation says is a “violent manifestation of Islamophobia.”
The British police on Sunday night confirmed that one man was pronounced dead at the scene and at least eight were injured after a vehicle rammed into worshipers coming out from the mosque in the Finsbury Park area of north London.
The eight injured were taken to hospital; two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, police said in a statement.
The 48-year-old male driver of the van “was found detained by members of the public at the scene and then arrested by police,” the police statement said.
“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,” it added.
“Due to the nature of this incident extra policing resources have been deployed in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan,” police said in the statement.
‘Attack is violent manifestation of Islamophobia’
Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain in a statement condemned the incident, adding that the perpetrator was “motivated by Islamophobia.”
The statement said witness accounts described the van “intentionally plowed into a group of worshipers who were already tending to someone who had been taken ill.”
“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. It appears from eye witness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia,” said Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
“Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date,” he added.
“Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency,” Khan said.
He further said that Muslims have been very concerned for several years about “the growth in hate crime for many years and transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia.”
Imam protected attacker from public
Witnesses told Sky News that an imam of the mosque protected the terrorist driver of the van from angry worshippers until the police arrived.
In a statement, the Muslim Welfare House applauded Imam Mohammed Mahmoud “whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injury and loss of life.”
The Muslim Welfare House also appealed Muslims to stay calm.
“We have worked very hard over decades to build a peaceful and tolerant community here in Finsbury Park and we totally condemn any act of hate that tries to drive our wonderful community apart,” the statement read.
‘I want to kill Muslims’
While he was pinned to the ground, the attacker was shouting, “I want to kill Muslims,” a witness said.
One witness said he and some of his friends had stopped to help an elderly man lying on the floor at around 12.20am on Monday.
“In seconds this terrible thing happened,”’ he told the Press Association.
“Literally within a minute, a van with speed turned to where we were and ran over the man who was laying on the floor and the people around him, around eight people or 10 people got injured, some of them seriously. Thank God I’m safe, but my friends got injured.”
“I managed to get the driver of the van when he came out of his van,” the witness stated.
“He wanted to run away and was saying, ‘I want to kill Muslims’. So he came back to the main road and I managed to get him to the ground and me and some other guys managed to hold him until the police arrived, for about 20 minutes I think, until the police arrived.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the terrorist attack and said he will attend prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque later today.
“I am shocked by this horrific and cruel attack in Finsbury Park, which is being treated as an act of terror,” he said in a statement.
“I offer my condolences to the family and friends of the man who has died, and our thoughts are with the people who have been injured, their family and friends,” said Corbyn, who is also the MP for the area.
“As the local MP, I have met with Muslim community leaders at the Muslim Welfare House alongside Islington Council Leader Richard Watts, the council’s Chief Executive Lesley Seary and the Metropolitan Police,” he stated.
“I appeal for people and the media to remain calm and respectful of those affected,” he said.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan condemned the attack in a statement on Facebook, saying it was deliberate and targeted “innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.”
“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.
“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected. I am grateful to our emergency services, who responded quickly and have been working on the scene throughout the night,” he added.
May calls it ‘potential terrorist attack’
British Prime Minister Theresa May said police were treating the incident “as a potential terrorist attack.”
“I will chair an emergency meeting later this morning. All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.
Earlier reports said a man armed with knife leaped out of the vehicle and stabbed at least one person.
After 12:20 am (2320 GMT), police received a report of collision on Seven Sisters Road, which runs through the Finsbury Park.
“There are a number of casualties being worked on at the scene,” London police said. “There has been one person arrested.”
Three people were said to have been seriously injured near the mosque.
The incident bore the hallmarks of a terrorist attack in the British capital earlier this month.
Police officers stand by messages of solidarity written on post-it notes stuck to a wall at the southern end of London Bridge in London on June 8, 2017.
Terror on and near the London Bridge left at least eight people dead and wounded almost 50 others on June 3.
Eight minutes after the first emergency call, armed police forces killed ringleader Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22.
The three knife-wielding assailants drove a hired van into pedestrians on the bridge and stabbed others in Borough Market in an attack initially praised and subsequently claimed by the Daesh Takfiri group.
A similar attack on March 22 left five people dead after a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death.
Terrorist alert has been set at “severe” in Britain, meaning an attack is highly likely.
By Africafrique and agencies