Man dies as van hits worshippers – Al Jazeera
At least one person has been killed and 10 others injured after a vehicle ran over pedestrians close to two mosques in a north London neighbourhood, UK police have said.
The 48-year-old driver of the van has been detained by bystanders and later arrested by police after the incident in Finsbury Park, which is being investigated by the UK’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Witnesses said the van veered off the road into worshippers leaving Ramadan prayers on Seven Sisters Road after midnight on Monday.
“Police were called just after 0020hrs [23:20 GMT] … to reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrians,” they said in a statement, calling the incident “major”.
Eight of the injured were taken to hospitals and the rest were treated at the scene, police said, adding that the driver of the van had also been taken to hospital.
Several hundred worshippers would have been in the area at the time after attending prayers as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the incident was being treated by police as a “potential terrorist attack”.
“I will chair an emergency meeting later this morning … All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the incident was an attack on common values.
“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,” he said in a statement, referring to attacks in previous months.
The UK has seen a bombing of a concert in Manchester in May, a stabbing spree earlier this month in the London Bridge area and a March attack in which a man drove a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge.
“Due to the nature of this incident, extra policing resources have been deployed in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan,” police said.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it had been “informed” that a van had run over worshippers as they left a mosque in Finsbury Park and called for extra security at mosques.
Harun Khan, secretary general of the MCB, said on Twitter that he was “shocked and outraged to hear” that a van had “intentionally run over worshippers” leaving Ramadan night prayers on Seven Sisters Road.
“During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Ben Rayner, reporting from Finsbury Park, said a police line had blocked off the typically busy road as about 100 people gathered nearby.
“There are two mosques in this Finsbury Park area – the Finsbury Park Mosque and another mosque just around the corner on Seven Sisters Road – and it appears that a number of people, worshippers, coming out of the mosque were badly injured,” Rayner said.
“We don’t know exactly the motivation yet,” he added, noting that Finsbury Park is “well known as an area with a large Muslim population”.
Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, said this was “a serious incident, maybe a terrorist incident, which affects a lot of people” in this part of London.
“We are in the last 10 days of [the Muslim holy fasting month of] Ramadan and a lot of people come to the mosque to pray the late prayer,” he told Al Jazeera.
“These people who have been attacked were the people who just left the mosque … but we don’t know whether they are all from the Muslim community – I assume that there are other casualties and victims who maybe are not even Muslim.”
Local resident Hillary Briffa told Al Jazeera that “the mood on the street is very agitated”.
“I reached the white van that had been pulled over and there was a man that had just been arrested and a lot of men had gathered around and shouting ‘why would you do this?'”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said he was “totally shocked at the incident”.
London Ambulance Service tweeted that a number of resources had arrived at the scene.
“Our priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries and ensure those in the most need are treated first and taken to hospital,” it said in a statement.(Al JAzeera)
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