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UK: Attack on Finsbury Park mosque

Monday 19 June 2017, by siawi3

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-security-idUSKBN19A016

Mon Jun 19, 2017 | 2:42pm EDT
Van rams Muslim worshippers in London, PM May condemns ’sickening’ attack

By Alistair Smout and Costas Pitas | LONDON

A van plowed into worshippers near a London mosque in the early hours of Monday, injuring 10 people, two of them seriously, in what Prime Minister Theresa May said was a sickening, terrorist attack on Muslims.

The vehicle swerved into a group of mainly North and West African people shortly after midnight as they left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in Britain.

The driver, a 47-year-old white man, was grabbed at the scene by locals and pinned down until police arrived.

The man was not named by police but local media reported he was a father of four who lived in Wales. He was held on suspicion of attempted murder which was later extended to preparing or instigating terrorism, including murder and attempted murder.

After being seized, he said he had wanted to kill "many Muslim people", one witness told journalists.

A man, who had earlier suffered a heart attack, died at the scene but it was not clear if his death was connected to the van attack.

"This morning, our country woke to news of another terrorist attack on the streets of our capital city: the second this month and every bit as sickening as those which have come before," May told reporters outside her Downing Street office.

"This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship," said May who later visited the mosque.

The White House said U.S. President Donald Trump was receiving regular updates on the attack. "We’ve made it very clear to our British allies that we stand ready to provide any support and assistance that they may need," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a briefing.

The attack was the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.

It came at a tumultuous time for the government with Britain starting complex divorce talks with the European Union and May negotiating with a small Northern Irish party to stay in power after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election that backfired.

DRIVER DETAINED

The mosques’ worshippers had just left special prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
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Usain Ali, 28, said he heard a bang and ran for his life.

"When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realized this was a man choosing to terrorize people who are praying," he told Reuters. "He chose exactly the time that people pray, and the mosque is too small and full, so some pray outside."

Another witness Yann Bouhllissa, 38, said he had been tending an old man who had suffered a heart attack when the van was driven at them. The driver was then seized by locals.

"One guy caught the guy and brought him down," Bouhllissa told Reuters. "When he was on the floor, the guy asked ’why do you do that?’. He said ’Because I want to kill many Muslim people’."

Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam from the Muslim Welfare House, stepped in to ensure the van driver was not hurt until he was bundled into a police van.

"We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him ... and some tried to hit him either with kicks or punches. By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm," Mahmoud told reporters.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to faith leaders in Finsbury Park Mosque, near the scene of an attack, in London, Britain June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

"We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle."

Neil Basu, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing, said restraint shown by locals was "commendable".

In addition to the man who died, 10 people were injured, with eight taken to hospital, two in a very serious condition, police said.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said the man was "not known to the authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism".

Police, who believe he was acting alone, were searching addresses in Cardiff, Wales, where the vehicle hire company that the van was rented from is based.

ATTACKS IN LONDON, MANCHESTER

The latest incident took place just over two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight..
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UK counter-terrorism police looking into London mosque incident: The Guardian

A suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, northern England, in May also killed 22 people, while in March, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. Five people were killed in that attack.

Five other terrorism plots have been foiled since March, police say.

May, weakened after losing her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election she had called to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks, has faced criticism for her record on security after the previous series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on her to reverse planned police spending cuts. She has also been criticized for her response to a fire in a London tower block last Wednesday which killed at least 79 people.

"Today’s attack falls at a difficult time in the life of this city, following on from the attack on London Bridge two weeks ago – and of course the unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower last week," May said.

She promised action to stamp out all forms of hatred, saying there had been far too much tolerance of extremism in Britain over many years.

Police have said hate crimes rose after the London Bridge attack and more officers would be deployed to provide reassurance to mosques.

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

Finsbury Park Mosque said it was a "callous terrorist attack" and noted it had occurred almost exactly a year after a man obsessed with Nazis and extreme right-wing ideology murdered lawmaker Jo Cox, a former humanitarian aid worker.

The mosque itself gained notoriety more than a decade ago for sermons by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison in January 2015 after being convicted of terrorism-related charges.

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

(Additional reporting by Ritvik Carvalho, William James, Estelle, Shirbon, Kate Holton, Dylan Martinez and Elisabeth O’Leary; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, Nick Tattersall and Michael Holden; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

°°

Theresa May condemns ’sickening’ attack on Finsbury Park Muslims

By Sarah Tilotta, Angela Dewan, Laura Goehler and Steve George, CNN

Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT) June 19, 2017

London (CNN)

A man died and 10 people were injured after a van was rammed into a crowd of worshipers near a mosque in north London, in the latest terror attack to hit the UK this year.
Eyewitnesses reported chaotic scenes as the incident unfolded just after midnight, when evening Ramadan prayers had finished.
A 48-year-old man was wrestled to the ground by members of the public and then arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, London’s Metropolitan police said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May made clear that the attack targeted Muslims and condemned it as "every bit as sickening" as deadly Islamist terrorist attacks that hit the country in recent months.

Latest developments
— Police say they believe there was only one man in the van.
— An imam stopped the crowd from hitting and kicking the attacker.
— Witnesses saw a man underneath the van.
— Eight people were hospitalized, all Muslim.
— Van appears to be a hire vehicle from a company in Wales.

The van rammed into the worshipers on Seven Sisters Road, a busy thoroughfare in Finsbury Park, north London, near a Muslim community center and a mosque.
Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, confirmed witness accounts that the man found dead at the scene was already receiving first aid when the attack happened. He said it was unclear whether he died as a result of the attack.
Eight other people were taken to hospital, two of whom were seriously injured, he said. Two people were treated at the scene.
Police believed that the attacker acted alone, despite earlier reports from witnesses, who had said they saw two other people flee the scene.
Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi said the attacker shouted "I did my bit, you deserve it." An imam prevented people from taking revenge on the man, he said.
Locals pray near a mosque where a vehicle struck pedestrians in London on Monday.

Photos

London’s Metropolitan Police said officers were called just after midnight Monday to an incident on Seven Sisters Road. Police said one person was arrested.

Speaking in Downing Street, May said police decided to treat the incident as a terror attack within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call. Residents in Finsbury Park had criticized authorities for not declaring the incident as terrorism soon enough, and police only announced they were treating it as terror more than eight hours after the event.
May said that all forms of extremism seek "to drive us apart and break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country."
"We will not let this happen," she said.
Police and ambulance crews at the scene of the attack on Monday.
Police and ambulance crews at the scene of the attack on Monday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the incident a "horrific terror attack." "We don’t yet know the full details, but this was clearly a deliberate attack on innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan," Khan said.
The assault comes on the heels of another attack at London Bridge, in which three men rammed a van into pedestrians and went on a stabbing spree at nearby bars and restaurants, killing eight people. Monday’s attack is the third in London since March involving a vehicle as a weapon against pedestrians.
Emotions are high in the UK in the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks and a fire at a London apartment building that killed dozens. Basu said it was a "challenging" time for London and that the emergency services were stretched.
What happened
Witnesses told CNN they saw a van driving at high speed along Seven Sisters Road after worshipers had attended late-night prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Abdikadir Warfa said the van turned into an alleyway and hit a number of people before coming to a stop. Images from the scene show a white van wedged against a traffic barrier at the dead end of a street.
"I saw a man, he was underneath the van," Warfa said, who described how his friends tried to lift the van to free him.
He said as he attended the injured, others grappled with the driver as he tried to run away.
Police guard a street in Finsbury Park after the attack on Monday.
.
Ratib Al-Sulaman was sitting two minutes away when the incident occurred.
"Some big van ... crushing the people in the mosque. So we just run straight away, I see police, ambulance, people lying on the floor, and a van as well," said Sulaman.
Both Warfa and Sulaman said there were three people originally in the van, and that two had run away. Police say they are investigating these reports but believe that only one person carried out the attack.
Saeed Hashi described how he fought with the driver, and how he and two others held him to the ground for 10 minutes as they waited for police to arrive.
"He punched me in the head," Hashi said, showing his bruises.
Mohammed Abdul said: "I saw something that was horrendous, something we should not see the in the 21st Century, something we should not see in the last 10 days of Ramadan."
Police have not named the man arrested, but the van bears the logo and phone number for Pontyclun Van Hire in south Wales. CNN spoke to a man at the company, who said he was the owner but declined to give his name. He said police had instructed him not to speak to the media.

Warnings of anti-Islamic attacks

A statement released by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned what it described as a "terror attack."
"During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. My prayers are with the victims and their families," read the statement.

London’s Finsbury Park — a closer look
Tell MAMA, an anti-Islamophobia group, had visited Muslim Welfare House on Friday last week to inform the community about the need to report anti-Muslim hate incidents and to consider their safety during Ramadan.
"Ramadan is a time when Muslims are more visible and when there are larger congregations who attend late at night to pray after opening their fasts. Mosque safety needs to be stepped up and this includes entry and exit points," it said in a statement.
Finsbury Park, in the London Borough of Islington, is a bustling, diverse area of north London with a strong Muslim community.
On May 22, a suicide attack killed 22 people and injured nearly 60 after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The attacker was motivated by Islamist extremism, police said.
.
Police cordoned off the scene on Monday.
The London Bridge attack was on June 3. That attack also appeared inspired by Islamist extremism.
The head of Tell MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal, warned of reprisal attacks against Muslims following major Islamist terrorist incidents.
"We saw that very clearly after Manchester, a very high peak. We saw that clearly after London Bridge," he said.

CNN’s Marilian Brocchetto, Carol Jordan, Stephanie Halasz, Antonia Mortensen, Laura Goehler, Ryan Prior, Alla Eshchenko and Darran Simon contributed to this report.