Van Rams Crowd Outside North London Mosque
The driver of a van that plowed into a crowd of Muslim worshipers in North London reportedly yelled, "I want to kill Muslims!" as people on the street grabbed him and held him for police. One man died at the scene and eight have been transported to hospital.
The collision happened near the Finsbury Park Mosque shortly after midnight local time, as worshipers left the final prayer service. Community members describe the crowd as many different ethnicities, but identifiable as Muslims by their clothing. The white van came down Seven Sisters Road and appeared to deliberately swerve into the people walking past the Muslim Welfare House leaving the injured scattered out on the ground.
From there, the witness accounts tend to diverge. Some say that three men exited the van, others claim there was at least one stabbing although police said there were no knife injuries. But several confirm that one man from the van shouted, "I want to kill Muslims!" Video taken by witnesses at the scene show police arresting a 48-year old "clean shaven white male" who had been detained by the crowd and taking him away. Later, UK counter terrorist police confirmed they were joining the investigation.
London is a city on edge after two recent terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower high-rise fire. People in the Muslim community feel the rise in Islamophobia, they feel tense, they feel targeted. The initial media reports were interpreted by some as playing down the seriousness of the collision, playing it down as a random traffic mishap. Many pointed out that previous incidents were instantly catergorized as "terrorism" in the mainstream media when the attacker wasn't white.
At any rate, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted it was a "major incident", and it didn't take long for the media to report the true scope of the crash and possible intent of the driver.
"Muslim communities have been calling for increased action to tackle the growth in hate crime for many years and transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia," said Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, in a statement: "Many will feel terrorized, no doubt be angry and saddened by what has taken place tonight. We urge calm as the investigation establishes the full facts, and in these last days of Ramadan, pray for those affected and for justice."
UK Prime Minister Theresa May described it as a "terrible incident"; the PM will chair an emergency response meeting later on Monday, confirming that it is being treated as a terrorist attack.
This happened in opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's constituency - he tweeted he was "shocked" and that his "thoughts are with those and the community affected by this event".
Earlier this year, Finsbury Park Mosque won a small settlement from Thomson Reuters news for erroneously reporting links to terrorism funding. In November 2015, the Mosque was targeted by a failed fire bomb attack.