London attack on Muslim worshippers: What we know

2017.06.19

Ten people were injured and a man also died at the scene after a van drove into a crowd of Muslim worshippers near a mosque in London in the early hours of Monday.
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London Mayor Sadiq Khan called it an “horrific terrorist attack” while Muslim leaders linked the incident to a rise in Islamophobic crime.

Here is what we know so far:

– What happened? –

Witnesses said a white van struck a crowd of Muslim worshippers who had been attending evening prayers during the holy month of Ramadan and were looking after an elderly man who had collapsed in an unrelated incident.

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Police said they were first called shortly after midnight.

Witness Khalid Amin told BBC television that the driver of the van was shouting: “I want to kill all Muslims.”

– Where did it take place? –

The incident happened outside the Muslim Welfare House, 100 metres (yards) around the corner from the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists that has since become a centre for inter-faith outreach.

The scene is just metres from the main railway line linking London with Edinburgh, the main Arsenal Football Club shop and what was the Rainbow Theatre, considered the prestige London concert venue in the 1960s and 1970s.

– Who is the suspect? –

The van’s 48-year-old white driver was detained by members of the public and then arrested by police.

He has been taken to hospital as a precaution and is due to receive a mental health assessment.

– How many victims? –

The attack unfolded as an elderly man was receiving first aid from members of the public, He later died, though it is not yet clear whether his death was linked to the attack, said Neil Basu, the police senior national counter-terror coordinator.

Ten people were hurt, all of them Muslims, with eight requiring hospital treatment. Two are in a very serious condition.

– Why are many residents angry? –

Many local Muslim worshippers complained that police did not immediately treat the attack as a terrorist incident, saying the response would have been different if it had been an Islamist assault.

Police issued an initial statement at 01:03 am (0003 GMT) saying a vehicle had collided with pedestrians.

In a statement at 04:46 am they said the incident was being investigated by counter-terrorism police.

Some people at the scene also complained that police took too long to arrive. One witness told the BBC he held down the suspect for 20 to 30 minutes before officers appeared.

But the police said they had responded “instantly” as officers were in the immediate vicinity, and that additional officers arrived within 10 minutes.

– How did Muslim groups react? –

The Muslim Council of Britain umbrella group said it expected increased security “as a matter of urgency”.

“Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia and this is the most violent manifestation to date.”

Following an Islamist-inspired van-and-knife attack in the London Bridge area on June 3, the city saw a sharp rise in anti-Muslim crimes.

On June 6 alone, 20 anti-Muslim incidents were reported, compared with a daily average of 3.5 incidents previously in 2017.

Egypt’s Al-Azhar institution, a leading authority of Sunni Islam, called it a “racist, sinful act” and urged “Western countries to take all precautionary measures to limit the phenomenon of Islamophobia.”

– How did politicians react? –

Prime Minister Theresa May held an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday and vowed to crack down on extremism.

“There has been far too much tolerance of extremism… including Islamophobia,” she said.

The attack was, she said, “a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms and our determination to tackle them must be the same, whoever is responsible”.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is the MP for the area, said he was “totally shocked”.

Mayor Khan called it a “deliberate” and “horrific terrorist attack” on “innocent Londoners”.