Londoners bearing flowers and messages of solidarity gathered at the spot where a man ploughed a van into Muslims leaving prayers at a mosque, the fourth terror strike in Britain in four months. Eleven people were injured in the attack, which took place early yesterday near Finsbury Park mosque, north London, raising fears of retaliation against Muslims after recent assaults by Islamic extremists. One elderly man, who had collapsed just before the incident, was pronounced dead at the scene, but it is not yet known whether his death was directly linked to the van assault.
Among the roughly 100 people at the vigil, some carried signs reading “United Against All Terror”. “One of the things that all these terrorists share is a perverse ideology that wants to fuel division and divide our communities. We’re not going to let them,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan, speaking after prayers at the Muslim Welfare House yesterday evening.
Flowers were left at the scene where hours earlier the 47-year-old van driver was pinned down by locals and shielded from violence by an imam, before being detained by police. The driver was later arrested on suspicion of “the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder”, the police said. The suspect was identified by British media as Darren Osborne, a father of four who lived in the Welsh capital Cardiff.
As police searched a property, five residents speaking to journalists from the Press Association news agency identified images of the arrested man as their neighbour, Osborne. Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC radio that the suspect was “not known to us”. London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was “quite clearly an attack on Muslims” and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.
Witness Abdiqadir Warra told AFP the van “drove at people” and that some of the victims were carried for several metres along the road. “He was shouting: ‘I want to kill all Muslims’,” another witness, Khalid Amin, told BBC television. The Finsbury Park Mosque said the van “deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers” at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House shortly after midnight.
Eleven people were hurt, all Muslims, with nine requiring hospital treatment. Two were in a very serious condition, police said. One Algerian man was among those injured, the north African country said. Locals pinned down the driver and the imam of the Muslim Welfare House stepped in to stop him receiving a mob beating.