One person has been killed and ten more injured after a white van driver screaming ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims’ ploughed into worshippers near a renowned north London mosque, in the latest terror attack to rock Britain.
A 48-year-old man has been arrested after the van, which was hired from south Wales, mounted the pavement and veered into a congregation outside the Muslim Welfare House, near Finsbury Park Mosque, shortly after they finished Ramadan evening prayers, known as taraweeh.
Heroic bystanders wrestled the suspect, who was clean-shaven with curly hair and wore a white t-shirt, to the floor and pinned him down until officers arrived, at around 12.20am, after he allegedly screamed: ‘I want to kill all Muslims’, and ‘I did my bit’.
One fatality was confirmed at the scene, while a further eight are being treated across three London hospitals and two victims sustained minor injuries.
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack as ‘the most violent manifestation’ yet of Islamophobia and called for extra security around mosques, which the Met Police has now promised.
The Prime Minister has confirmed the incident is being treated as a potential terror attack, as she called an emergency meeting of the Cobra Committee.
Shocking footage from the scene shows the man being held by a police officer as angry crowds gather behind him. After the attack the man was reportedly tackled by civilians, and a crowd of angry bystanders gave him to police.
The congregation of victims were heroically trying to save an elderly man who had collapsed at a bus stop, according to eyewitnesses, and it is unknown if this is the death recorded.
The Finsbury Park Mosque gained notoriety more than a decade ago for sermons by hate preacher Abu Hamza who was imam from 1997 until 2003 and was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison in January 2015 for his conviction on terrorism-related charges.
Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi said he was among a group of people helping an elderly worshipper who had fallen down, perhaps because of the heat, when the van swerved towards them.
He told BuzzFeed News: ‘This big van just came and went all over us.
‘I think at least eight or 10 people got injured. Luckily I managed to escape. And then the guy came out of his van and I got him.
‘He was screaming, he was saying, ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims, I’m going to kill all Muslims’. He was throwing punches.
‘Then we managed to get him on the floor. Then he was saying, ‘Kill me, kill me’. I said, ‘We are not going to kill you. Why did you do that?’ He wouldn’t say anything.’
Another witness, Abdikadar Warfa, said he helped to detain the suspect while his friends helped victims.
‘I saw a man underneath the van. He was bleeding. My friend said he had to lift the van, I was busy with a man who tried to escape. My friend said he said some words, but I didn’t hear it,’ he said.
‘They (people who were hit) were mostly young. They are very bad. I tried to stop him (the suspect), some people were hitting him but I said stop him and keep him until the police came.
‘He was trying to run away but people overpowered him. He was fighting to run away.’
Mr Salah Alamoudi said he had also helped to hold the suspect on the ground for up to half an hour before police arrived.
‘The guy, I had to keep him at least half an hour. He was a strong guy. A big man,’ he said.
‘It was heartbreaking. It wasn’t an accident.’
Emergency service crews were also seen giving cardiac massages to the injured in a desperate bid to save them, but unconfirmed reports that two other suspects fled the van were denied by police.
The police operation is being handled by counter-terrorism units, while the suspect has been taken to hospital and will be detained once he has been discharged, and will then face a mental health assessment.
A new board of trustees and management took over Finsbury Park Mosque in February 2005, a year after Abu Hamza was arrested by British police, since when attendance has greatly increased among worshippers from various communities, according to the mosque’s website.
The mosque has undergone wholesale changes and become far more liberal under new leader Mohammed Kozbar.
Mr Kozbar told The Sun: ‘Whoever did this, he did it to hurt people and it’s a terrorist attack. We call it a terrorist attack as we called it in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge.’
Atikur Arhman, 41, from Finsbury Park, said: ‘An elderly man who just came from the mosque, he just fainted and people were picking him up when the van he just sped up and ran them over when the guy was one the floor.’