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Monday, 19 June 2017

Late-night attack on worshippers near mosque being treated as terrorism

Written by The Press Association

An attack on a group of worshippers near a mosque by a man in a white van is being treated as terrorism, police said.

One man died after the driver, described as a large white man, targeted people near the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London early on Monday.

Witnesses described hearing the man, who was detained by members of the public at the scene, shout: "I'm going to kill Muslims".

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: "This is being treated as a terrorist attack."

Mr Basu said eight people are in hospital and two others were treated at the scene.

All of the casualties were Muslims, he added.

He said: "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."

The attacker struck as the area was busy with worshippers attending Ramadan night prayers at the mosque.

One witness described being surrounded by bodies in the wake of the attack outside the nearby Muslim Welfare House.

Another witness, who wanted to be identified as Abdulrahman, which is not his real name, told the Press Association: "I managed to get the driver of the van.

"He wanted to run away and was saying 'I want to kill Muslims'.

"So he came back to the main road and I managed to get him to the ground and me and some other guys managed to hold him until the police arrived, for about 20 minutes I think, until the police arrived."

Abdulrahman claimed the driver said 'Kill me', as he was being held on the ground.

Mr Basu thanked members of the public who detained the driver, saying "their restraint in the circumstances was commendable".

The driver has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Imam hailed for bravery after holding and protecting van attack suspect

An imam guarded the van driver who mowed down Muslim worshippers until the police arrived, telling a crowd: "Do not touch him."

The suspected terrorist was wrestled to the ground by passers-by after he had careered, reportedly smiling, through a crowd of pedestrians, including a man in a wheelchair.

Eyewitness Hussain Ali, 28, said that, while being restrained, the man was protected by the people he is thought to have been targeting.

He said: "The leader of the mosque said 'You do not touch him'. He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him.

"All the police and helicopters came after around eight minutes."

Mr Ali described the horrifying scene unfolding outside the Islamic centre in north London early on Monday morning.

"All I heard was a banging, then I turned and saw all the shouting and running.

"I saw people taking a man from underneath the van, he was black, bleeding, he was not dead, he was alive.

"There was a man in a wheelchair, a man underneath the van, it was hell.

"People who were inside saw the attacker was smiling, he was waving, he was happy.

"It was panic, people were shouting, screaming, some saying it was an accident.

"It was panic, it was horror."

In the wake of the carnage, the valour of an imam called Mohammed Mahmoud was also hailed by the religious community.

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, said his "bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Victoria Jones / PA Wire.