Witnesses describe horror at scene of London mosque attack
Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(LONDON) — Witnesses at the scene of a suspected deadly terrorist attack outside a London mosque described the horror they experienced as a van plowed into a group gathered outside after evening prayers, killing at least one and injuring 10.
Many of the people who were injured in Monday’s attack near the Finsbury Park Mosque in London had just finished praying at the worship center when a white van suddenly mounted the sidewalk and ran deliberately into them, according to people who witnessed the crash.
“I just saw everyone flying,” one witness, who asked to be identified as Khalid, told ABC News on Monday. “And then the guy got out of the van saying ‘where is all Muslims. I want to kill all Muslims.’”
Khalid said three of his friends were injured in the attack, including one who was hit and pinned under the van. Khalid said he went into shock after the collision happened and others on the scene had to lift the van in order to remove him.
“It was horrendous,” Khalid said. “This is a terrorist attack and it was not an accident.”
The incident is being investigated as a terrorist attack, according to police, and multiple witnesses said the van took a sharp left turn and appeared to hit the crowd intentionally.
A 48-year-old man was arrested at the scene, according to the Met Police, but witnesses reported seeing three attackers, including two who fled the scene.
“There was three of them. Two of them ran away,” delivery driver Mohammed Abdullah told Sky News on Monday. “The other was held at the scene until the police came. Some people wanted to beat him up.”
Khalid described the driver of the van as a white man who had yelled that he wanted to “kill all Muslims.”
Another eyewitness, Mohamad, said he and others in the community are worried about returning to the area for prayer on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, we’re going to be here praying,” Mohamad said. “We still have to look over our shoulders where we’re going to go. Or we might have to even not come.”
The incident occurred in North London outside of the Muslim Welfare House, which is located near the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Leaders at the facility — which provides support services for Muslims in the North London area — quickly condemned the attack, referring to it as an “act of hate” meant to drive the community apart.
“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 Muslim Welfare House said in a statement early Monday. “We would appeal for calm at this time.”
The Muslim Council of Britain called the incident a “violent manifestation” of Islamophobia and said authorities should increase security outside of mosques “as a matter of urgency.”
“Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date,” said Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “It appears from eye witness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia.”
He noted that the attack happened during Ramadan — a holy month on the Islamic calendar that is marked by prayer and fasting — and said the council “expects the authorities to increase security outside of mosques as a matter of urgency.”
Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, called the incident a “cowardly attack” on worshippers.
London has seen several deadly terrorist attacks in recent months.
Monday’s attack came less than a month after a van crashed into a crowd of pedestrians on London Bridge followed by knifing attacks that left eight people dead and many others injured. That attack came in the wake of a suicide bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last month that killed 22.
A separate vehicle ramming attack in March on Westminster Bridge left four dead including the suspect.
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