Van rams Muslims leaving mosque in London
LONDON - Reuters
AP photoA van ploughed into worshippers leaving a London mosque on yesterday, injuring 10 people in what witnesses said was a deliberate attack on Muslims.
One man, who was already being given first aid at the scene before the vehicle was driven into pedestrians, has died but police said it was not clear whether his death was directly linked. Eight others are in hospital, with two in a very serious condition.
The incident was being treated as a potential terrorist attack said Prime Minister Theresa May, which if confirmed would make it the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.
“This had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident,” said Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing. “This was an attack on London and all Londoners.”
Shortly after midnight, the hired vehicle swerved into a group of people leaving prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque, one of the biggest in the country, witnesses said. The attack comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“This big van just came and went all over us,” witness Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi told BuzzFeed News. “He [the driver] was screaming... ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims’.”
Police said the suspected van driver, aged 48, had been detained by members of the public before being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
“I would like to thank those people who helped police in detaining the man and worked with officers to calmly and quickly get him into our custody,” Basu said. “Their restraint in the circumstances was commendable.”
Eight people were taken to hospital and two were treated at the scene. Usain Ali, 28, who was near the mosque at the time, said he heard a bang and ran for his life.
“When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realized this was a man choosing to terrorize people who are praying,” he told Reuters. “He chose exactly the time that people pray, and the mosque is too small and full, so some pray outside.”
The attack comes at a time of political turmoil in Britain, as May, weakened by the loss of her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election, plunges into divorce talks with the European Union.
She has faced heavy criticism for her response to a fire in a London tower block last Wednesday which killed at least 58 people, and for her record on security after a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants in recent months.
“All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” May said, adding that she would chair an emergency response meeting later on June 19.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said extra police had been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan, describing the attack as “an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect.”
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in whose constituency the attack took place, said he was “totally shocked.”