Barely two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight, a van has ploughed into worshippers leaving a London mosque on Monday, injuring 10 people in what witnesses said was a deliberate attack on Muslims.
One man, who was already being given first aid at the scene before the vehicle was driven into pedestrians, has died but police said it was not clear whether his death was directly linked. Eight others are in hospital, with two in a very serious condition.
The incident was being treated as a potential terrorist attack said Prime Minister Theresa May, which if confirmed would make it the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.
“This had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident,” said Neil Basu, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing. “This was an attack on London and all Londoners.”
Shortly after midnight, the hired vehicle swerved into a group of people leaving prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque, one of the biggest in the country, witnesses said. The attack comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“This big van just came and went all over us,” witness Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi told BuzzFeed News. “He (the driver) was screaming… ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims’.”
Police said the suspected van driver, aged 48, had been detained by members of the public before being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
“I would like to thank those people who helped police in detaining the man and worked with officers to calmly and quickly get him into our custody,” Basu said. “Their restraint in the circumstances was commendable.”
Eight people were taken to hospital and two were treated at the scene. Usain Ali, 28, who was near the mosque at the time, said he heard a bang and ran for his life.
“When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realised this was a man choosing to terrorize people who are praying,” he told Reuters. “He chose exactly the time that people pray, and the mosque is too small and full, so some pray outside.”