LONDON: One man was killed and eight people hospitalised when a van ran into pedestrians near a mosque in north London in an incident that is being investigated by counter-terrorism officers, police said on Monday (Jun 19).
|Seven Sisters Road closed after a van rammed into people in north London. (Photo: Alec Wilson/Twitter)|
The 48-year-old male driver of the van “was found detained by members of the public at the scene and then arrested by police,” a police statement said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the incident is being treated by police as a potential terrorist attack.
“Police have confirmed this is being treated as a potential terrorist attack,” May said. “I will chair an emergency meeting later this morning.”
“All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.
The incident took place on Seven Sisters Road, near Finsbury Park station, in north London at 12.20am. The Muslim Council of Britain said on Twitter that a van ran over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park Mosque after prayers.
Witnesses told Sky News that at least 10 people were hit by the van.
“We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body, said on Twitter.
According to counter-terrorism police co-ordinator Neil Basu, all victims were Muslim but the man who died at the scene may have been taken ill before it happened.
“The attack unfolded as a man was already receiving first aid at the scene, sadly that man has died,” Basu said. “Any causative link between his death and the attack will form part of the investigation. It is too early to say if his death was as a result of this attack.”
Harun Khan, the head of the MCB, said the van had “intentionally” run over people leaving night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan.
An AFP reporter could see a helicopter and many emergency vehicles at the scene, which was closed off by a large police cordon.
Traffic was shut down on a section of Seven Sisters Road, where the incident happened.
“We saw lots of people shouting and lots of people injured,” David Robinson, 41, who arrived just after the accident, told AFP.
The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “totally shocked” by the events of Monday morning. “I’m totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight,” Corbyn posted on Twitter.
“My thoughts are with those and the community affected by this awful event.”
Police, including armed officers, could be seen manning a wide cordon around the area. Others searched the area with sniffer dogs.
A group of Muslim men could be seen praying on the pavement nearby. Traffic was shut down along a one-kilometre section of Seven Sisters Road.
Cynthia Vanzella, who lives near the scene, said on Twitter: “Horrible to watch police officers doing cardiac massage at people on the floor, desperately trying to save them. I just hope they did.”
MCB deputy head Miqdaad Versi said the incident happened “outside the Muslim Welfare House”, which is on Seven Sisters Road near the mosque.
In a statement, the London Ambulance Service said they “treated eight patients at the scene and taken them to three London hospitals”, adding a number of patients were also treated at the scene for minor injuries.
It added: “We sent over 60 of our medics to the scene including ambulance crews, advance paramedics and specialist responses teams and an advance trauma team from London’s Air Ambulance.”
This latest incident comes in the wake of two other attacks in London which involved pedestrians being mowed down by vehicles. On Mar 22, five people were killed and dozens injured after being run over and stabbed near the Houses of Parliament on Westminster Bridge.
The second incident occurred at London Bridge on Jun 3 when eight people were killed in a knife attack after assailants ploughed a van into pedestrians.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said following that attack that there had been a 40 per cent increase in racist incidents in the city and a five-fold increase in the number of anti-Muslim incidents.
On his Facebook page, Khan at the time called on Londoners “to pull together, and send a clear message around the world that our city will never be divided by these hideous individuals who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life”.