UPDATES WITH PRIME MINISTER, HOME SECRETARY’S STATEMENTS, TURKISH EU MINISTER’S COMMENT
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - One person was killed and 10 injured when a van was driven into a group of people outside a north London mosque early Monday, police said.
The attack, in which the van driver seemed to deliberately ram the vehicle into a crowd of Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque shortly after midnight, is being treated as a terrorist incident.
A 48-year-old man was arrested after members of the public apprehended him after he left the van and tried to flee the scene.
Eyewitness Abdulraman Aidroos told Anadolu Agency that the “white British man” had shouted “I am going to kill Muslims”.
Most of the victims are thought to have left the Muslim Welfare House on Seven Sisters Road after Taraweeh prayers held during the holy month of Ramadan when the van mounted the pavement.
Police said the man who later died was being treated by members of the public when the van struck at 12.20 a.m. (2320GMT). The BBC reported an elderly man had collapsed on the pavement.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, national counter-terrorism coordinator said it was too early to say his death was a result of the attack.
“No matter what the motivation proves to be, and we are keeping an open mind, this is being treated as a terrorist attack and the Counter Terrorism Command is investigating,” he said in a statement.
Basu said the victims were all from the Muslim community, eight of the injured were taken to hospital and two were treated at the scene.
- Cobra meeting
He added: “Extra policing resources have been deployed across London in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said she would chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee later Monday.
She later described the attack as “sickening” and “insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life”.
She added: “Today we come together, as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.”
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik condemned the attack in a tweet.
“Strongly condemn the #FinsburyParkMosque attack in #London. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” he posted. “Our world will only be safe when we all stand united against all sorts of terrorism, extremism, islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism.”
Muhammed Kozba, the mosque’s imam, told Anadolu Agency worshippers who were performing the prayer were “intentionally” targeted.
The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan, also said worshippers were the specific target.
Muslim Association of Britain President Omer El-Hamdoon said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this evil attack. I call on all Muslims to be extra vigilant following these hateful Islamophobic attacks and to be cautious.”
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Islington North constituency contains Finsbury Park, said he was “totally shocked” and would be attending prayers at the mosque later Monday.
- Appeal for calm
“My thoughts are with those and the community affected by this awful event,” he tweeted.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also condemned the attack. “We don’t yet know the full details but this was clearly a deliberate attack on innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan,” he said in a statement released on Facebook.
“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 suspect was taken to hospital as a precaution and will undergo a mental health assessment.
Muslim Welfare House released a statement appealing for 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,” it said.
On March 22, a man killed five people when he drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a police officer. The attacker was shot dead by police.
Two months later, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester, northwest England.
Eight people were killed on June 3, when a van drove into people on London Bridge before three attackers stabbed victims around nearby Borough Market.