British Prime Minister Theresa May has described the Finsbury Park attack on Muslim worshippers that injured 10 people, two of them seriously, as a “sickening” terrorist attack.
A man driving a rented van swerved into a group of people shortly after midnight on Monday as they left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.
The driver, named by UK media as 48-year-old father-of-four Darren Osborne, has been arrested on terrorism offences.
Officers have also raided addresses in his home city of Cardiff in Wales.
Osborne was held at the scene by locals and pinned down until police arrived.
After being seized, he reportedly told victims and bystanders he had wanted to kill “many Muslim people,” one witness told journalists.
He allegedly hurled insults at his Asian neighbour’s 12-year-old sonafter the London Bridge attack earlier this month, according to The Telegraph.
It also reported that the night before the attack, Mr Osborne was allegedly thrown out of local pub Hollybush after “cursing Muslims” durign an immigration row.
His neighbour Khadijah Sherazi told The Telegraph Osborne that her and Mr Osborne had been on good terms, with him having once offered to mend her broken tap.
But she said more recently he’d become abusive, calling her 12-year-old son an “inbred” while playing on his bike.
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A man, who had earlier suffered a heart attack, died at the scene but it was not clear if his death was connected to the van attack.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said the suspect was not known to security services, and was believed to have acted alone.
“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 which have come before,” May told reporters outside her Downing Street office.
“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” said May who later visited the mosque.
The mosques’ worshippers, mainly from North and West Africa, had just left prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Usain Ali, 28, said he heard a bang and ran for his life.
“When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realised this was a man choosing to terrorise people who are praying,” he told Reuters.
Another witness Yann Bouhllissa, 38, said he had been tending an old man who had suffered a heart attack when the van was driven at them.
“One guy caught the guy and brought him down,” Bouhllissa told Reuters. “When he was on the floor, the guy asked ‘why do you do that?’. He said ‘Because I want to kill many Muslim people’.”
Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam from the Muslim Welfare House, stepped in to ensure the van driver was not hurt until he was bundled into a police van.
“We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him … 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,” Mahmoud told reporters.
In addition to the man who died, 10 people were injured, with eight taken to hospital, two in a very serious condition, police said.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said the driver was “not known to the authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism”.
The latest incident took place just over two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight.
A suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, northern England, in May also killed 22 people, while in March, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead.
Five people were killed in that attack.
Police have said hate crimes rose after the London Bridge attack and more officers would be deployed to provide reassurance to mosques.
– With agencies