London mosque attack: What we know so far about the Finsbury Park terrorism incident
One person is dead after a van struck Muslim worshippers in London, in what police are investigating as a terrorist attack. Here's a primer
- A white man plowed a van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers outside a north London mosque on Sunday night.
- One man was killed, though police did not confirm whether the vehicle attack was the immediate cause. Eleven other people were injured.
- Police are investigating it as a terrorist incident. Already stretched by a series of major incidents around the capital, London’s police force is putting more officers on the street to reassure the public.
- British media have named the suspect in Monday’s attack as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, a father of four who was living in Cardiff, Wales.
- London police said the man had been arrested on suspicion of commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder as well as attempted murder.
- Muslim leaders called the attack a hate crime motivated by Islamophobia and asked the public to stay calm.
- Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack in a televised statement, saying “hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.”
Where, when and how it happened
The crash occurred shortly after midnight Sunday night, at a time when the multiethnic neighbourhood was crowded with Muslims leaving the Finsbury Park mosque after Ramadan prayers.
A worshipper named Athmane told The Globe that he saw the van moving quickly up the road, deliberately targeting people. He described how the passersby "jumped on him to get him out" of the vehicle and stayed there until police arrived to take the man away. Athmane said the man smiled and waved as he was taken into custody:
He was happy, smiling, giving victory signs. He was waving a goodbye to us. This is a proper criminal … He was enjoying what he’d done.
Dead: As of Monday morning, the person killed had not been identified. In a statement, police described the person as a worshipper who was receiving first aid outside the mosque at the time of the attack and died at the scene. But they said it wasn't clear if he died from the van attack or something else.
Injured: Police said nine of the injured were hospitalized; the other two had minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Eyewitnesses reported seeing police give emergency heart massage to at least one of the injured.
The Finsbury Park mosque was associated with extremist ideology for several years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, but was shut down and reorganized. It has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.
About a block away from the mosque is a community centre, the Muslim Welfare House. Mohammed Mahmoud, an imam at the centre, was hailed as a hero by bystanders, fellow clerics and London's mayor after he intervened to keep the crowd from hurting the van driver after they dragged him out of the vehicle. Mr. Mahmoud described to reporters how he stepped in to plead with people to only restrain the man until police arrived:
We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him, around the assailant and some tried to hit him either with kicks or punches. By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm.
Toufik Kacimi, the chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, said the imam may have saved lives with his actions:
[The imam’s] bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life.
How the Muslim community has responded
A leader of the Muslim Council of Britain called for extra security at mosques in light of the apparent attack. The group's general secretary, Harun Khan, described the incident as a hate crime against Muslims.
During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia.
The chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque says the van crash that hit worshippers was a "cowardly attack" and urged Muslims going to mosques to be vigilant. Mohammed Kozbar said the Muslim community is "in shock." He complained that the "mainstream media" was unwilling to call the attack a terrorist incident for many hours.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said police "immediately" treated the incident as a suspected terrorist attack.
How British politicians have responded
Sadiq Khan: London's Mayor, the first Muslim to serve in that position, called the incident a "horrific terrorist attack":
Theresa May: The Prime Minister described the crash as a "potential terrorist attack" before visiting the Finsbury Park mosque on Monday. She said her thoughts were with the injured, their loved ones and emergency officials who responded to the incident. She also said she would chair an emergency security cabinet session.
Jeremy Corbyn: The leader of the opposition Labour Party offered his condolences and met with Muslim community leaders on Monday. He described an attack on mosque worshippers as an "attack on all of us."
A terrorist attack on any faith or community is an attack on all of us. We must and will stand united against those who seek to divide us. pic.twitter.com/llAds1nQHX— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 19, 2017
How the world has responded
Sunday night's attack prompted messages of condolence from several world leaders.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada:
We strongly condemn the Finsbury Park terror attack. In these difficult weeks for London & the UK, know you’ll always have Canada’s support.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 19, 2017
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General:
Saddened by the terrible incident in London last night. My thoughts are with those affected, all Londoners and the British people.— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) June 19, 2017
Emmanuel Macron, President of France:
Pensées pour Londres et les victimes après cette nouvelle épreuve.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 19, 2017
Britain's summer of terrorism
Sunday night's attack in London is one of several terrorist incidents Britons have endured in recent months.
London Bridge: Earlier this month, a van veered into pedestrians on London Bridge, setting off vehicle and knife attacks that killed eight people and wounded many others on the bridge and in the nearby Borough Market area. Three men who carried out the attack were killed by police.
Manchester: Manchester was also hit by a severe attack when a bomber killed more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande concert in May.
Westminster Bridge: In March, a knife-wielding assailant driving a sport utility vehicle killed five people when he drove into pedestrians outside London's Parliament buildings and then fatally stabbed a police officer.
Britain's terrorist alert is currently set at "severe," meaning an attack is highly likely.
British security officials cited by Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with official policy, said hate crimes directed at Muslims have increased nearly five-fold in the wake of several attacks in Britain.
With reports from Reuters and Globe staff
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