Imam saved London mosque attacker from angry crowd

Early on Monday morning, a van ploughed into worshippers as they left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque, injuring ten people, in what May said was a sickening, terrorist attack on Muslims.

The alleged victims are believed to have been leaving the mosque after attending prayers and eating their evening iftar meal to break their fast for Ramadan.

Police said the attacker who drove the van has been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism, including murder and attempted murder.

The suspect was described by police as a 48-year-old white man, who was taken into custody.

Scotland Yard said the attack unfolded while a man who had taken ill was receiving first aid from the public.

A witness told the BBC that "from the window, I started hearing a lot of yelling and screeching, a lot of chaos outside.Everybody was shouting: "A van's hit people, a van's hit people".

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the crash is being investigated as a terrorist attack and said her thoughts were with those who had been hurt in "this awful incident".

Imam Mohammed Mahmoud was hailed for his efforts to prevent a mob attack and calm the situation before police arrived in shielding the suspected terrorist from the fury of onlookers.

The message, signed "from Finsbury Park staff and British Transport Police", says: "Tough times don't last". The attack Monday hits a community already feeling targeted in the fallout from the London Bridge killings and other attacks blamed on Islamic extremists.

Assistant chief constable Nick Adderley from Staffordshire Police said: "We are all shocked by the appalling attack in London".

"We have worked very hard over decades to build a peaceful and tolerant community here in Finsbury Park and we totally condemn any act of hate that tries to drive our wonderful community apart", the statement said.

After the London Bridge attack, the mayor's office reported a 40 percent increase in racist incidents in the city and a fivefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim incidents.

"The bad terrorist attack that took place last night was an evil act born out of hatred and it has devastated a community", May told community leaders.

"I'm totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight", he wrote on Twitter.

The media was also criticized for being slow to call the incident a terror attack.

Mr Javid said: "I want to reassure both the local Muslim community, but also Muslims across the United Kingdom, that they will always have the full support of this government in fighting anti-Muslim hate crime". Police say they're treating it as a terrorist incident.

The alleged attacker is now in custody, and a residence in Cardiff, Wales, is being inspected by the police as possibly associated with the incident.

The incident came after two terror attacks in London in the past three months involving vehicles ploughing into crowds of people, as well as the suicide bombing attack at a Manchester pop concert in May.

A small crowd had gathered round to try and help him when the van was driven into them around 12:20am.

  • Leroy Wright