A man has died and 10 people have been injured after a man drove a van into crowds of people near a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, shortly after midnight on Monday (19 June).
The driver of the van was restrained by passers-by, led by a “brave” imam, outside the Muslim Welfare House, near Finsbury Park Mosque, on Seven Sisters Road.
One witness told reporters that the driver, a 48-year-old man, had shouted “I want to kill all Muslims” before he was held on the ground.
All the victims of the attack were Muslims, police said, with many thought to be worshippers who were leaving the mosque after breaking the Ramadan fast when they were hit.
The suspect was pinned down until police arrived at the scene and later arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. A local imam who protected the man from angry crowds has been commended for his actions by the Muslim Welfare House.
“I would like to particularly thank our Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life,” a statement from the community charity said.
Video footage taken at the scene appears to show the man blowing kisses to the crowd as he was put into a police van.
One witness, Hussain Ali, 28, described the scene as “panic” and “horror”.
“All I heard was a banging, then I turned and saw all the shouting and running. I saw people taking a man from underneath the van, he was black, bleeding, he was not dead, he was alive,” Ali told PA.
“There was a man in a wheelchair, a man underneath the van, it was hell. People who were inside saw the attacker was smiling, he was waving, he was happy. It was panic, people were shouting, screaming, some saying it was an accident.”
Earlier, police also said the arrested man would be "subject of a mental health assessment in due course".
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Prime Minister Theresa May said police confirmed the incident is being treated as a potential terrorist attack. She is due to chair an emergency Cobra meeting in response to the incident later on Monday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the incident as a "horrific terrorist attack on innocent people".
He added: "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.
"The situation is still unfolding and I urge all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant."
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, 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.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he is “totally shocked” by the incident and “an attack on a church is an attack on all of us”.
Early reports suggest the suspected terrorist drove his van into a crowd who had come to the aid of an elderly man who had collapsed at a bus stop.
Boubou Sougou, 23, saw the speeding van mount the pavement. “It was deliberate, it was not an accident,” he told The Guardian.
Metropolitan Police's deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu confirmed the elderly man being given first aid has died: "Sadly that man has died. It is too early to state if his death was a result of this attack."
Mr Basu also commended the actions of the passers-by who restrained the suspect, given they "must have been scared" and "angry".
The vehicle used in the attack is from Pontyclun Van Hire in Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan, ITV News reports, though it is unknown at this stage if the vehicle was hired or stolen.
Monday morning’s attack follows three in London and Manchester in recent months, with five people killed by a van-and-knife attack on Westminster Bridge in March, 22 killed by a suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May and eight people killed in another van-and-knife attack on London Bridge earlier this month.
It also comes days after the anniversary of the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was killed in the street by right-wing extremist Thomas Mair outside her constituency office in Batley, West Yorkshire.
Just hours after the Finsbury Park attack, a tube worker at the north London borough wrote this inspiring message to Monday morning commuters facing the aftermath of yet another attack:
- Police have asked anyone with information regarding the Finsbury Park attack to call the counter-terrorism hotline on 0800 789 321
Images: Rex Features/Twitter