Van hits London crowd; 1 arrest

People run over leaving mosque

LONDON -- A vehicle drove into pedestrians early today in London, which has endured two recent terrorist attacks involving vehicles.

The Metropolitan Police called the event "a major incident" and said one person had been killed and 10 were injured. Eight of the injured were hospitalized, and the other two were treated at the scene.

A 48-year-old has been arrested and taken to the hospital, police said. There are no other suspects.

Police said the Counter Terrorism Command was investigating the crash, though they did not call it a terrorist attack.

Police were called at 12:20 a.m. to Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, a neighborhood where many immigrants live.

Witnesses on the scene, as well as numerous accounts on social media, said the pedestrians were hit outside the Finsbury Park Mosque or the nearby Muslim Welfare House, a community center.

"We have been informed that a van has run over worshipers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque," the Muslim Council of Britain said on Twitter. "Our prayers are with the victims."

"Our prayers and thoughts with those injured outside Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters road hit by a van mounting pavement," MEND, a nonprofit organization that encourages British Muslims to get more involved in media and politics, wrote on Twitter.

[EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox]

Mahroof Mohammed said he saw several injured people. "There were seven or eight, three of them were bleeding badly," Mohammed said. "They were all leaving the mosque when they got hit by the van."

Mohammed said that most of the victims he saw were men, but he also saw one old woman injured.

"An old man was severely injured," his walking stick right next to him, said Mohammed, a businessman. "His family said he passed away."

Boubou Sougou, 23, was leaving the gym at Seven Sisters and Isledon roads when he saw people bleeding in the parking lot of the Finsbury Park Mosque.

"There were around five people that were injured, one old man was severely injured," Sougou said.

"His family had gathered around him, trying to resuscitate him."

On social media, witnesses said they believed the victims had been performing Tarawih, the evening prayers performed by Sunni Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Police arrived about 15 to 20 minutes after the incident, Mohammed said. "It was three local men that were holding the man from the van until police came and put him inside the van," he said.

Mohammed said that the man being held was white and had heavily tattooed arms and that he was not speaking.

Sougou added: "I saw the attacker attempting to run away but people from the mosque held him back," he said. "Some of them wanted to beat him up, but were stopped by the ones that were holding him until the police came."

Footage showed injured people lying on the ground, according to the Independent newspaper.

"Horrible to watch police officers doing cardiac massage at people on the floor, desperately trying to save them," witness Cynthia Vanzella wrote on Twitter.

The London Ambulance service confirmed it sent "a number of resources to an incident in Seven Sisters Road," including advance paramedics and specialist response teams.

The Finsbury Park Mosque opened in 1994 and became a hotbed of Islamist militants, including Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman convicted of conspiring to kill Americans as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Richard Reid, who attempted to down a U.S. jetliner in late 2001 with explosives packed in his shoes. In 2015, the mosque's former imam, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, was sentenced to life in prison in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on 11 terrorism-related charges.

The mosque was raided by authorities in January 2003, and in February 2005, it was completely reconstituted -- "run by a new board of trustees with a new management team, new imams, a new name and new ethos," according to its website. Five stories tall, with enough space for 1,800 worshippers, it is a major house of worship for North London, in an area known for a large immigrant population.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, said in a Twitter post that "our thoughts and prayers with those who got injured and effected by this cowardly attack in Finsbury Park area" and that there were "many casualties in the floor."

The mosque states on its website: "The work of the new management reflects the proper role of a mosque -- as a place of worship, religious learning and social interaction. It also presents the true teachings of Islam as a religion of tolerance, cooperation and peaceful harmony amongst all people who lead a life of balance, justice and mutual respect."

Prime Minister Theresa May described the crash as a "terrible incident" and said, "All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones and the emergency services on the scene."

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party said on Twitter he was "totally shocked."

On March 22, a 52-year-old Briton rammed a car into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, fatally injuring four of them, and then stabbed a police officer to death before he was gunned down by police.

On June 3, three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, before launching a knife attack in nearby Borough Market. Eight people were killed before the men were shot to death by police.

Information for this article was contributed by Peter Libbey of The New York Times and by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

A Section on 06/19/2017

Log in to comment