Muslims ‘targeted’ in attack near Finsbury Park mosque
Alazeera June 19
Witnesses at London’s Finsbury Park mosque say a man who crashed a van into a crowd of pedestrians on Monday deliberately targeted Muslims.
The attack early on Monday morning left one man dead and at least 10 others wounded.
The crash occurred at a time when the multi-ethnic neighbourhood was crowded with Muslim worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park mosque after Ramadan prayers.
British Muslim leaders have linked the vehicle attack to Islamophobia and urged Theresa May, UK prime minister, to do more to tackle anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Saeed Hashi, a local resident, told Al Jazeera he saw a white van “speeding” towards pedestrians soon after he left the mosque, and ran over at least eight people.
“A van speeding very fast came towards us. We thought he was late for work or trying to catch the traffic light before it turned red. Suddenly, he turned towards pedestrians. His first casualty was a woman and three guys. Then he reversed, and carried on. And he hit another five people.”
When the vehicle came to a halt, Hashi said he and others grabbed the driver, wrestled him to the ground and held him down for 15 minutes until police arrived.
The suspect was “angry, and was shouting abusive words”, Hashi said.
“To be honest, I can’t go to the mosque any more. I am afraid for my safety.”
He called for additional security at mosques across the UK.
‘Kill all Muslims’
Khalid Amin told Reuters news agency that the van drove into the crowd without warning, hitting several people, and trapping at least one man underneath as it came to a stop.
The van “turned left with no indication, with no even like suddenly, just deliberately left, and then just hit the people”, Amin said.
“And one of them, he was under the van, people were gathered around the van to actually lift the van up to get this guy up from under the van”.
Amin said that when people seized the driver, “he was shouting: ‘All Muslims, I want to kill all Muslims.’ Literally, he said that. Word by word”.
Witnesses reported seeing two other men who had been inside the van run away, but police are yet to confirm if others were involved in the attack. A 48-year-old man was arrested, police said.
One man who was leaving the mosque when the attack unfolded described panic and horror in the aftermath.
He told Al Jazeera he saw “12-13 people on the ground, men and women” and “a lot of blood, hurt people, a woman screaming, people trying to call the police, trying to catch the driver”.
Video filmed in the immediate aftermath showed a tall Caucasian man being detained by police. Someone in the crowd yelled to others not to harm the man and another is heard shouting: “Why would you do this?”
Athmane, a resident in the area, told Al Jazeera the suspect “was waving for victory, and was smiling” after he was taken into custody.