A man has died and eight people have been injured after a van hurtled into pedestrians near a north London mosque in the early hours of Monday morning in what people are describing as a ‘potential terrorist attack’
The van is believed to have mounted the pavement, where it struck a group of people just after midnight near Finsbury Park Mosque in Seven Sisters Road. A 48-year-old man has been arrested.
Prime Minister Theresa May said police were treating it “as a potential terrorist attack”.
The Muslim Council of Britain said a van intentionally ran over worshippers.
Eyewitness Abdul Rahman told the BBC he struck one of the attackers and helped subdue him.
“When the guy came out from his van he wanted to escape, run away and he was saying ‘I want to kill Muslims. ‘I want to kill Muslims.’
“I hit him on his stomach… and then me and the other guys… we held him to the ground until he couldn’t move. We stopped him until the police came.”
Counter-terrorism officers are at the scene, the Metropolitan Police said.
Many of the victims are believed to have just left evening prayers at the Muslim Welfare House after breaking the Ramadan fast.
The Muslim Council of Britain said it was a “violent manifestation of Islamophobia” and called for extra security around mosques.
The Prime Minister described it as a “terrible incident”, adding: “All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones and the emergency services on the scene.”
Extra police are being deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said.
He has also asked people to “remain calm and vigilant”.
He said: “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.
“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, 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.”
The van driver, believed to be a ‘clean shaven white man’ was arrested after being detained by members of the public at the scene following the collision at 00:20 BST.
Police confirmed there were no reports of stabbings after speculation arose that the attacker was carrying a knife.
Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi said he was among a group of people helping an elderly worshipper who had fallen down when the van swerved towards them.
Video posted online of the aftermath showed a scene of chaos as people tried to help the injured.
One man could be seen giving CPR to a victim in the street while another man’s head injury was treated with a makeshift dressing.
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An eyewitness told how he jumped out the way of the van as it struck.
He said: “He just came into all of us. There was a lot of people. We got told to move straight away.
“I was shocked, shocked, shocked. There were bodies around me.
“Thank God I just moved to the side. I just jumped. Everyone is hurt. Everyone is actually hurt.”
Another who lives in a flat on Seven Sisters Road told the BBC she saw people “shouting and screaming”.
“Everyone was shouting ‘a van’s hit people’.
“There was this white van stopped outside Finsbury Park Mosque that seems to have hit people who were coming out of the mosque after prayers finished.”
She said the road was “backed up” with police cars, ambulance and fire engines.
Witnesses at the scene – near Finsbury Park Station and Arsenal’s Emirates stadium – said more than one attacker may have been involved.
But the Metropolitan Police noted: “At this early stage of this investigation, no other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported to police, however the investigation continues.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd described it as an appalling incident.
“We must all continue to stand together, resolute, against all those who try to divide us and spread hate and fear,” she said.
Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: “I’m totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight.
“I’ve been in touch with the mosques, police and Islington council regarding the incident. My thoughts are with those and the community affected by this awful event.”
The MCB said its “prayers are with the victims”.
The white van allegedly used bears the name of Welsh firm ‘Pontyclun Van Hire’, leading people to believe the attacker has travelled in specifically to carry out the attack in Central London and that it was not a random vigilante.