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1 dead in attack outside London mosque, attacker yelled ‘I’ll kill all Muslims’

A white man rammed a van into worshippers leaving a mosque in London early on Monday, leaving one dead and 10 others injured, with the attack coming against the backdrop of a rise in Islamophobia.

world Updated: Jun 20, 2017 00:32 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Finsbury Park mosque,van attack,London mosque attack
Police officers attend to the scene after a van was rammed into people outside a mosque at Finsbury Park in north London, Britain, on June 19, 2017. (Reuters)

One man died and 10 others were injured when a man drove a van into worshippers leaving a London mosque after Ramzan prayers early on Monday, the third terror incident in Britain in three months involving a vehicle, after the attacks on Westminster and London bridges.

Witnesses said the van driver was a “large white man”, who was apprehended by members of the public soon after the incident near Finsbury Park. He was quoted as shouting: “I want to kill all Muslims.”

A man, who was already being given first aid at the scene before the van rammed the pedestrians, has died but police said it was unclear whether his death was directly linked. At least two of the injured are in a very serious condition.

After chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, called Cobra, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship. And like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal…It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms, and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible.”

May also announced the setting up of a “Commission for Countering Extremism” with statutory status to help fight hatred and extremism in the same way as racism.

She said that there had “been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia. That is why this government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology – both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow.”

Forensic investigators work at the scene of an attack where a van was driven into Muslim worshippers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London on June 19, 2017. ( Reuters )

Police confirm attack was a ‘terrorist incident’

Neil Basu, Scotland Yard’s senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing, confirmed it was being treated as a terror incident: “No matter what the motivation proves to be, and we are keeping an open mind, this is being treated as a terrorist attack and the Counter Terrorism Command is investigating.”

He added, “The attack unfolded whilst a man was receiving first aid from the public at the scene, sadly, he has died. Any causative link between his death and the attack will form part of our investigation. It is too early to state if his death was as a result of the attack…All the victims were from the Muslim community.”

All the victims were from the Muslim community, Basu said.

Security was stepped up outside mosques in London and elsewhere. Local MP Jeremy Corbyn expressed “total shock” at the incident.

Witness Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi told BuzzFeed News: “This big van just came and went all over us…He (the driver) was screaming...’I’m going to kill all Muslims’.”

Sky News reported that the mosque’s imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, prevented the crowd from beating the attacker, aged 48, until police arrived and arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder.

The Finsbury Park mosque, one of the largest in the UK, was in the headlines in the 1990s because of its links to radical cleric Abu Hamza. It was shut down and reorganized, and has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.

The area has a large immigrant community and is also home to Arsenal football club.

Map of northern London locating Finsbury Park mosque. One person was killed and 10 more were injured when a van drove into a crowd of Muslim worshippers there on Monday. ( AFP )

Mosque attack amid political turmoil in UK

It was the third attack in recent months in which a vehicle was used to target members of the public, after the March 22 attack on Westminster Bridge and the June 3 attack on London Bridge. Both the earlier attacks, which left 12 people dead, were claimed by the Islamic State.

Monday’s attack comes at a time of political turmoil in Britain, as May, weakened by the loss of her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election, plunges into divorce talks with the European Union.

She has faced strong criticism for her response to a fire in a London tower block last Wednesday that killed at least 58 people, and for her record on security after a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

Police had said hate crimes had risen after the London Bridge attack and they had stepped up their visible presence at places of worship.

The Muslim Council of Britain said Monday’s attack was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months and called for extra security at places of worship.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 15:09 IST