A van has plowed into worshippers as they left a mosque in north London, killing one person and injuring ten others, authorities say. The driver was arrested and the crash is being treated as a possible act of terrorism.
The incident happened at about 12:15 a.m. local time on Monday when emergency services were called to Seven Sisters Road for reports that a vehicle had struck pedestrians. It happened outside the Muslim Welfare House near Finsbury Park Mosque.
Witnesses and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the driver appeared to have “intentionally” run over worshippers as they left Ramadan night prayers. Police would not comment on whether the crash was intentional, saying only that its Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation.
A large number of emergency services, including armed police and more than 60 medics, responded to the scene.
“The driver of the van – a man aged 48 – was found detained by members of public at the scene and then arrested by police in connection with the incident,” police said in a statement. “He has been taken to hospital as a precaution, and will be taken into custody once discharged. He will also be subject of a mental health assessment in due course.”
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) reported that one man was pronounced dead at the scene, eight people were taken to area hospitals, and two other victims were treated at the scene for minor injuries. There was no immediate word on the conditions of those taken to hospital.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the incident is being treated as a “potential terrorist attack” and added that she will hold an emergency meeting later on Monday morning. “All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones and the emergency services on scene,” she said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the incident an assault on values of tolerance, freedom and respect. “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,” the mayor said.
Many worshippers at the scene expressed anger over the incident and urged police and journalists to call it a terrorist attack against Muslims, similar to the June 3 attack in which a van ran over pedestrians on the London Bridge. That attack, which left 8 people dead, was claimed by ISIS.
“It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia,” said Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date.”
Khan urged for “transformative action” to be taken to tackle the “hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia,” noting that the Muslim community had been calling for increased action for years. “Many will feel terrorized, no doubt be angry and saddened by what has taken place tonight,” he said.
As a result of the incident near Finsbury Park Mosque, extra police officers have been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan, police said.
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