Date
22 June 2017
Armed police officers stand guard after a van rammed people leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Armed police officers stand guard after a van rammed people leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Van rams worshippers leaving London mosque, killing at least one

(Updated; first posted at 9:52 a.m.)

A van ploughed into worshippers leaving a London mosque on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring several in what Britain’s largest Muslim organization said was a deliberate act of Islamophobia, Reuters reports.

The vehicle hit people as they were leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque, one of the biggest in the country, the Muslim Council of Britain said.

The attack comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people attend prayers at night.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said police had confirmed it was being treated as a potential terrorist attack and said she would chair an emergency response meeting later on Monday.

“All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.

Police said one man was pronounced dead at the scene and that the van driver, 48, had been detained by members of the public before being arrested. The driver would undergo a mental health assessment in due course, police said.

The London Ambulance Service said it had taken eight people to hospital, while two were treated at the scene.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said extra police had been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan, describing the attack as “an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect”.

The incident comes just over two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight.

The Muslim Council said Monday’s attack was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months and called for extra security at places of worship.

Police said they were called just after 12:20 a.m. (7:20 a.m. in Hong Kong) to reports of a collision on Seven Sisters Road, which runs through the Finsbury Park area of north London.

Britain has been hit by a series of attacks in recent months, including the van-and-knife attack on London Bridge on June 3.

On March 22, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people.

On May 22, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England.

The Finsbury Park Mosque gained notoriety more than a decade ago for sermons by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was sentenced to life in a US prison in January 2015 for his conviction on terrorism-related charges.

A new board of trustees and management took over in February 2005, a year after Abu Hamza was arrested by British police, since when attendance has greatly increased among worshippers from various communities, according to the mosque’s website.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

CG

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