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One dead after van rams pedestrians near London mosque; treated as potential terrorist attack

  • A vehicle collided with pedestrians in London's Finsbury Park area
  • Metropolitan Police said there were "a number of casualties"
  • One man was pronounced dead at the scene, police said
  • Witness reports indicated a van ran into multiple people who were leaving a nearby mosque

One man has died and ten others have been injured after a van drove into a crowd of people near a mosque in the Finsbury Park area of London during the early hours of Monday morning.

A 48-year-old man, who police say was driving the vehicle, has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. The suspect was initially held by members of the public at the scene of the crime, which took place on Seven Sisters Road shortly after midnight on Monday.

The man who died had reportedly been receiving first aid at the scene prior to the attack, but the police have stated they would be investigating any "causative link" between the attack and the man's death. A further ten people are being treated in hospital for their injuries.Two are said to be seriously injured.

All casualties were of the Muslim faith, police said.

"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'."

London police said the suspect was found detained by members of the public at the scene of the incident. He was then arrested and will be subject to a mental health assessment. An investigation of the incident is being carried out by the British police's counter-terrorism command.

The incident was declared a terrorist attack within eight minutes, however the assailant is not thought to have been known to authorities for extremist behavior.

"This man was not known to authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism," Ben Wallace, minister for state and security in the Home Office, said on Monday afternoon.

The scene on a street in London's Finsbury Park area after a vehicle collided with pedestrians.
Credit: Cynthia Vanzella
The scene on a street in London's Finsbury Park area after a vehicle collided with pedestrians.

Witnesses reported that the van collided with pedestrians who were on their way home from a prayer at a mosque in the area, according to multiple news outlets.

British Prime Minister Theresa May held an emergency response meeting on Monday morning. Speaking shortly afterwards she condemned the attack as a "sickening attempt to destroy the freedoms to worship in the United Kingdom."

She also praised the local residents who pinned down the assailant.

Britain's opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement that he was "totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight."

"I've been in touch with the mosques, police and Islington council regarding the incident," he said. "My thoughts are with those and the community affected by this awful event."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the incident "a horrific terrorist attack" in a post on Facebook on Monday morning.

"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," he 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."

Speaking on Monday morning the Metropolitan police's deputy assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, urged the public to remain "calm and vigilant."

"Now is a time, once again, for Londoners to stand together to face those who seek to divide us," Basu said.

Additional police have been deployed in all London boroughs to reassure communities, particularly those observing the Muslim festival of Ramadam.

"This was quite clearly an attack on Muslims who looked like they were probably Muslims and they were coming from a prayer meeting," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said during an update on Monday afternoon.

"We treat this as a terrorist attack and we in the (Metropolitan Police) are as shocked as anybody in this local community or across the country at what has happened."

The incident follows a series of attacks in Britain. Eight people were killed and 50 injured on June 3 when three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars.

On March 22, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people. And on May 22, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England.

The attack also comes days after the one year anniversary of Jo Cox's death, a member of parliament who was murdered in her constituency in West Yorkshire by a man known for his association with far-right organizations.

—Reuters contributed to this report.