1 dead, several hurt as van hits
crowd near London mosque

June 19 2017 1:52 PM

pic from wikipedia.org
Image from wikipedia.org

One person was killed, and several were injured, when a van drove into pedestrians near Finsbury Park Mosque, north London, in the early hours of Monday morning, according to a report in CNN.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the collision as a “horrific terrorist attack” in a statement.

“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,” Khan said.

“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.”

Khan said Metropolitan Police were deploying extra officers to “reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected. I am grateful to our emergency services, who responded quickly and have been working on the scene throughout the night.

It also comes in the same month as the June 3 terror attack on London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market in which eight people were killed after three men in a van rammed into pedestrians on before going on a stabbing spree.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the collision was being treated as a potential terrorist attack, CNN quoted the Press Association as saying.

“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,” May said, according to the PA.

One dead
Police said in a statement that one man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Eight people injured were taken to three separate hospitals; two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries,” police said in a statement.

The Counter Terrorism Command is running the investigation.

The driver of the van, a 48-year-old man, was found at the scene being held by members of the public and was then arrested.

Though witnesses have said they saw two people from inside the van flee the scene, police said that no other suspects have been identified so far, but noted that the investigation was ongoing.

The detained suspect was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, but would be taken into custody once discharged, the statement said. He will also be given a mental health assessment “in due course.”

Harassment concerns
Attacks and harassment of Muslims in London have been on the rise since recent terror attacks, community leader Abjol Miah told CNN’s Phil Black at the scene.

“Innocent people have been abused. Even my daughter, when she was on the Tube, she was harassed. We have to live with all this,” Miah said.

When asked what Londoners need to do to prevent anti-Muslim activity, Miah stressed the need for unity.

“We’re not going to allow any forms of extremism to divide us,” he said.

Police have said that the counter terrorism command is investigating the incident.

Call to increase security outside mosques
The Muslim Council of Britain, an advocacy group for the Muslim community, has released a statement calling on authorities to increase security outside mosques. The statement calls the incident a “terror attack” that targeted ordinary British citizens going about their lives.

Police told CNN  it’s too early to determine if this was a terror attack. The statement also urged calm as the “investigation establishes the full facts.”

‘Totally shocked’
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, said he was “totally shocked at the incident” in a statement released on Twitter.

Corbyn represents North Islington in Parliament, the district in which the incident took place.

At the scene
CNN’s Ian Lee has is near the scene and says there’s a heavy police presence and many ambulances and fire trucks.

“When I got to the scene, there were a lot of people gathering here — a lot of local people trying to figure out what happened.”

One eyewitness told Lee he was “inches away” from the incident. A group of people were gathered when a van came in and hit a number of people — at least five — the witness said.

“It’s unclear if the driver of the van tried to get out or if the people were able to pull him out of the van, but what the eyewitness told me is that locals were able to apprehend him very quickly — and this is a man, according to the eyewitness — and were able to hand him over to police, where he was then arrested,” Lee said.

“It didn’t seem like he was trying to stop,” Lee said the witness told him. “He (the witness) said he heard this van accelerate into this group of people.”

The borough of Islington, where both the mosque and welfare house are located, is home to nearly 20,000 Muslims — or about 9 percent of its population — according to data from the 2013 census. The borough’s northern part is represented in Parliament by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party.