Approximately 20 minutes after midnight last night, a man drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians near Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. One person is dead and 10 more are wounded, according to Telegraph.
Police claim that the attack was carried out by a 48-year-old Caucasian male against worshippers heading from the mosque after Ramadan prayers. They are investigating the crime as a terrorist incident, according to Time, and although police have not released the identity of the attacker, they have arrested him on the suspicion of attempted murder and has been taken to a hospital as a precaution.
In a statement released by the Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, he claimed police are investigating whether the on-scene death was the result of the attack.
According to witnesses, a small crowd gathered around a man who was ill, outside of the Muslim Welfare House, which was a few hundred meters from where the attack took place.
The crowd had stopped to help what one bystander described as an elderly man, as reported by The Guardian. The bystander also described the incident in a statement saying, “In seconds this terrible thing happened."
"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 ten people got injured, some of them seriously. Thank God I’m safe, but my friends got injured," the bystander said.
Other witnesses on scene corroborated the story that the man got out of the van and shouted, “I want to kill Muslims” before onlookers surrounded and detained him until authorities arrived.
Skynews reported that the mosque’s imam arrived on the scene shortly after the attack, and that he and others in his group had surrounded the attacker and urged others not to injure the man.
He said in a statement, “By God’s grace we managed to surround him and protect him from any harm. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle.”
Skynews also got ahold of a statement from London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who praised the imam’s actions.
He said, “When things were getting very heated, and we can understand why, Imam Mohammed did a really good job in calming things down and making sure that justice can be done as it should be done via due process, rather than anyone taking the law into their own hands.”
Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, also praised the actions of Imam Mohammed, calling him a “hero.”
The mosque from which worshippers were coming from before the attack has been at the center of controversy in the past. Before being raised and rebuilt with more moderate practicing and a new management staff, the mosque had been linked to extremist ideology for many years.
The mosque, which opened in 1994, became a breeding ground for extremists including Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman convicted for conspiracy to kill Americans, and Richard Reid, who tried to bring down an American flight with explosives packed in his shoes. The former imam, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, was charged with a life sentence for 11 terrorism-related charges including conspiracy to orchestrate kidnappings of Americans, British and other tourists visiting Yemen.
Since reopening and rebranding the mosque has made serious efforts to cut its radical links and building relationships with other religious communities. The New York Times retrieved a statement from Local Rev. Daniel Sandham of St. John the Evangelist, who said, “There are very good friendships between the Christian and Muslim communities here.”
There is an unavoidable panic stirring within the public as this is the fifth tragic event to take place in just a matter of months. Despite the presumed solidarity among religious communities, this is the fourth attack related to religion in recent months. The first was when an attacker drove through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March, followed by the bombing at an Ariana Grande Concert in May, and most recently the London Bridge Attack. Although not related to religion, the destructive Grenfell fire which both took place in June.
With the rise in violence and attacks, now a threat to both Muslims and the general public, the British government will be scrambling to address its current wave of issues. Unfortunately, it seems that while they already have their hands full it doesn’t seem like the escalation of violence is approaching any end.
UPDATE: Suspect named as Darren Osborne, 47.
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