The attack on worshippers outside of the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park is being treated as a terrorist attack, according to deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, of the Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism in the Metropolitan Police.
A group of people were helping a man who had collapsed when they were hit by the van at 00:20 BST this morning (June 19). Police have confirmed that it is too early to speculate if the death is connected to the attack.
An eyewitness, Abdul Rahman, told the BBC that the driver had expressed a desire to “kill all Muslims,” and Mr Rahman had, in his own words, helped ‘subdue’ the suspect.
A second eyewitness Hussain Ali, said the imam helped shield the suspect. He told the Standard: “The leader of the mosque said ‘You do not touch him’. He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him.”
Mr Ali added that police arrived at the scene in eight minutes.
In a statement, deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu added: “Officers were in the immediate vicinity as the attack unfolded and responded instantly. Additional officers arrived within 10 minutes.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed that additional police are being deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan. Officers from the Metropolitan Police will also increase patrols around Muslim places of worship.
Speaking to Sky News, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed that the van attack was ‘immediately’ treated as a terrorist attack by police.
A statement from the Muslim Welfare House called for calm, offering their prayers and thoughts to the victims of the attack. Adding that: “All of our efforts should be towards getting justice for the victims and ensuring our community stays the diverse, tolerant and welcome place we know it to be. We call on all, including the media, to act responsibly at this time”.
Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress added: “We condemn this attack and its attempt to escalate tensions in the UK and we stand firmly beside our Muslim brothers and sisters in the aftermath of this attack.
“An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions and all people and faiths must stand together against terror.”
The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued statements condeming the attack. Shomrim tweeted: “
#WeStandTogether in solidarity with the victims of the horrific terrorist attack in #FinsburyPark.Thoughts & prayers with all those affected”.
In a statement, the Archbishop of Centerbury, Justin Welby, said: “The freedom to worship without fear is a right we cherish as a nation and was won at great human cost over many years.
The appalling attack on Muslims in Finsbury Park is an attack on us all and on the culture and values of our country.”
Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque,made a plea for unity on BBC Newsday.
Nor was this was the first act of terrorism against Muslim communities. In 2013, Ukrainian neo-Nazi Pavlo Lapshyn murdered 82-year-old grandfather Mohammed Saleem and tried to bomb several West Midlands mosques in the hopes of instigating a ‘race war’. A year later, a neo-Nazi named Ian Forman was jailed for ten years after plotting to bomb mosques in Merseyside.
We reiterate the advice of London Mayor Sadiq Khan that no incident of hate crime is too trivial to report.
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