First Published: 2017-06-19

One dead as van rams pedestrians near London mosque
British police say all victims in incident near London mosque were Muslim, as British PM calls it “potential terrorist attack.”
Middle East Online

All the victims were from the Muslim community

LONDON - A van ploughed into pedestrians near a London mosque in early Monday, killing one man and injuring eight other people in what Prime Minister Theresa May said was "a potential terrorist attack".

The 48-year-old driver of the van was detained by members of the public and then arrested by police.

"All the victims were from the Muslim community," counter-terrorism police co-ordinator Neil Basu told reporters, adding that the man who died was already receiving first aid before the incident.

Muslim leaders said worshippers were specifically targeted after leaving prayers near Finsbury Park mosque in north London shortly after midnight and linked the incident to a recent rise in anti-Muslim hate crime.

Witness Abdiqadir Warra said the van "drove at people" and some of the victims were carried for several metres along the road.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was a "horrific terrorist attack," calling it "deliberate" and aimed at "innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan".

May was due to hold an emergency ministerial meeting later on Monday to discuss the attack.

It comes after two deadly Islamist attacks this year that used vehicles to ram pedestrians -- one earlier this month in the London Bridge area and a March attack in which a man drove a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge.

One witness, Abdul Rahman, told the BBC he saw the van "deliberately run over about 10 or 15 people". Rahman said he and another man wrestled the suspect to the ground and held him down for 20 to 30 minutes before police arrived.

A police statement said "One man was pronounced dead at the scene... Eight people injured were taken to three separate hospitals."

Two other people were treated at the scene for light injuries. Police said the male driver had also been taken to hospital as a precaution and would receive a mental health assessment.

Amateur video footage seen by AFP showed at least three people lying on the ground, including one who was receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"Due to the nature of this incident, extra policing resources have been deployed in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan," the police statement said.

- Prayers on the pavement -

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body for British Muslims, said the incident occurred outside the Muslim Welfare House on Seven Sisters Road, near the Finsbury Park mosque.

"Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia and this is the most violent manifestation to date," MCB head Harun Khan said.

AFP reporters saw a helicopter hovering overhead and several emergency vehicles blocking a section of Seven Sisters Road, a busy thoroughfare.

Police, including armed officers, could be seen manning a wide cordon around the area. Others searched the area with sniffer dogs.

A group of Muslim men were praying on the pavement nearby. Traffic was shut down along a one-kilometre section of the road.

- 'Evil violence' -

Finsbury Park mosque was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists but has entirely changed in recent years under new management.

Its former imam Abu Hamza was jailed for life in New York on terrorism charges in 2015.

He preached there from 1997 to 2003 before being jailed for inciting violence. He was later extradited to the United States.

In 2015, the mosque was one of around 20 that took part in an open day organised by the MCB to promote better understanding of Islam following Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks in Paris.

Despite the change in leadership and a new focus on inter-faith relations, the mosque reported it had received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris.

- Spike in anti-Muslim crime -

Monday's incident in London follows an Islamist-inspired attack on June 3 in which three militants wearing fake suicide vests ran over pedestrians and went on a stabbing spree in bars in the London Bridge area.

They killed eight people before being shot dead by police.

London Mayor Khan said following that attack that there had been a 40-percent increase in racist incidents in the city and a fivefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim incidents.

On his Facebook page, Khan at the time called on Londoners "to pull together, and send a clear message around the world that our city will never be divided by these hideous individuals who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life".

Britain has seen two other attacks this year.

On March 22, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a police officer guarding the British parliament to death before being shot dead.

Five people were killed in the attack.

On May 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in Manchester, killing 22 people.

 

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Gulf share values plummet

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue