June 19, 2017 7:18 am
Updated: June 19, 2017 6:58 pm

Finsbury Park attack: Man arrested on terrorism offences after plowing van into Muslim worshippers in London

ABOVE: Video shows suspect in London mosque attack detained

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A man has been arrested on terrorism offences hours after a van plowed into a group of Muslim worshippers leaving a London mosque early Monday morning, injuring at least 10 people.

Police responded to a report of a van striking a group of Muslims who were leaving evening prayers at the Finsbury Park mosque at about 12:20 a.m. local time.

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Police said 10 people were injured in the attack, eight of whom have been hospitalized. The driver of the van, a 47-year-old man, was arrested at the scene after being detained by several members of the public. Authorities said one person was killed in the attack, but authorities later said it’s unclear if the victim died as a direct result of the incident.

READ MORE: London mosque’s leader spoke out against extremism days before attack on Muslims

“Sadly Londoners are waking to the news of another dreadful incident in the capital that has left a number of people seriously injured,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Counter Terrorism Command Neil Basu told reporters early Monday. “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.”

Basu said officers in the immediate vicinity responded to the attack while additional support arrived within 10 minutes of the call.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack near the north London mosque a “sickening” attempt to destroy liberties that unite Britain, such as freedom of worship.

“This morning, our country woke to news of another terrorist attack on the streets of our capital city. The second this month and every bit as sickening as those of which have come before,” May said. “It was an attack that once again target the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives: this time British Muslims as they left a mosque having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year.

“Today we come together as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed,” the prime minister said. “Officers were in the immediate vicinity as the attack unfolded and responded within one minute. Police declared it a terrorist incident within eight minutes. One man was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also condemned the attack outside the mosque.

“We strongly condemn the Finsbury Park terror attack. In these difficult weeks for London & the UK, know you’ll always have Canada’s support,” Trudeau tweeted.

British media named the suspect Monday afternoon as Cardiff resident Darren Osborne. Citing British Security Minister Ben Wallace, The Guardian reported Osborne, a married father of four, was not known to intelligence officials.

“What I can say on this case is this individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us, but we are aware of a rise in the far right,” the newspaper quoted Wallace as saying.

The mother of Osborne spoke to ITV that “I just can’t talk about it, I just don’t know.” She said she hadn’t seen her son in about a month.

“I’m not going to defend him, but he’s my son and it’s a terrible, terrible shock,” she said.  “It’s not just robbing a bank, it’s an atrocity. And at this moment in time, I can’t cope with it, I can’t. I don’t want to say anything more.”

A neighbour of Osborne told the British newspaper they had recognized Osborne after seeing a photo on television.

“Someone called me and said it was him and I said, ‘It can’t be.’ Then I saw the picture on the news and said, ‘It’s him,’” Dave Ashford said.

Another neighbour told The Guardian Osborne “seemed normal enough.”

“The police have been back and forward here all day. It’s a terrible shock,” Pauline Tibbs told the newspaper. “I’ve seen him walking in the street but never spoken to him. He seemed normal enough.”

READ MORE: 1 dead, 8 injured after vehicle rams into worshippers near London mosque

The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted that the vehicle ran over worshippers as they were leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque after late-night prayers.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the van had deliberately swerved into a group of people who were helping a man who was ill and had fallen to the ground.

“A number of passers-by, or friends, or people who had come by from the mosque, were gathering around him to help take him to his family, take him to his house,” Versi told Reuters.

“At that moment in time, basically a van swerved into them deliberately,” he said, citing a witness at the scene.

WATCH: Witnesses at scene say 3 men in vehicle tried to runaway after ramming worshippers in London, England

Mayor Sadiq Khan urged Londoners to be “calm, but vigilant” following the attack Monday morning.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the van had deliberately swerved into a group of people who were helping a man who was ill and had fallen to the ground.

“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,” Khan said.

Vowing “zero tolerance” for hate crimes, Khan declared “we will not allow these terrorists to succeed … we will stay a strong city.”

Authorities said the driver of the van was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Police later said the suspect has further been charged for the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder. Police have yet to release his name and said he was taken to a hospital out of precaution.

According to the Associated Press, a mob surrounded the suspect and witnesses said the crowd began attacking him. A local imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, organized some “brothers” and shielded the man until police could take him away.

“By God’s grace, we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm,” Mahmoud said. “We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle.”

London’s mayor acknowledged the “fantastic response” by first responders and local worshippers who “apprehended the man in the van who mowed down the pedestrians.”

“I’ve heard stories form the imam who stopped local residents from understandably taking out their anger on this terrorist,” Khan said at a press conference.

Britain’s terror alert level is at “severe,” meaning security officials believe an attack is highly likely, and a series of extremist attacks have struck across the country in the last few months.

On June 3, Islamic extremists used a vehicle and then knives to kill eight people and wound dozens of others on London Bridge and in the popular Borough Market area. Police shot and killed the three men who carried out the attack.

In March, a man plowed a rented SUV into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing a police officer to death outside Parliament. The attacker was also killed by police.

To the north, Manchester was hit by a deadly attack May 22 when a suicide bomber killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert.

with files from Global News reporter Rahul Kalvapallé and the Associated Press

 

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