Van strikes pedes­tri­ans in Lon­don

Ten more were in­jured when the ve­hi­cle hit peo­ple leav­ing mosques

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY GRIFF WITTE griff.witte@wash­post.com

One per­son was killed and 10 were hurt as peo­ple left mosques af­ter Ra­madan prayers.

lon­don — A van plowed into a group of Mus­lim wor­shipers as they were leav­ing prayers at a pair of north Lon­don mosques early Mon­day, wit­nesses said, in an in­ci­dent po­lice said had caused “a num­ber of ca­su­al­ties.”

The in­ci­dent oc­curred when the van sped off the road­way and swerved onto a side­walk, which was crowded with hun­dreds of peo­ple who had just fin­ished the day’s fi­nal prayers for the holy month of Ra­madan, wit­nesses re­ported.

In a state­ment, po­lice said that one per­son had been killed and that 10 were in­jured, eight of whom were hos­pi­tal­ized. The two peo­ple who were not hos­pi­tal­ized were treated at the scene.

Po­lice said they were deal­ing with “a ma­jor in­ci­dent” and had de­ployed ex­tra of­fi­cers “to re­as­sure com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially those ob­serv­ing Ra­madan.”

Po­lice said the Counter Ter­ror­ism Com­mand will in­ves­ti­gate, sug­gest­ing they think the in­ci­dent was a ter­ror­ist at­tack, al­though they stopped short of say­ing so early Mon­day.

Video showed po­lice tak­ing a man into cus­tody, and au­thor­i­ties con­firmed they had made one ar­rest. The 48-year-old, who is be­lieved to be the driver, was ap­pre­hended by by­standers and handed over to au­thor­i­ties, po­lice said. There are no other sus­pects, they said.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred near two mosques: the Fins­bury Park Mosque and the Mus­lim Wel­fare House. The Mus­lim Coun­cil of Bri­tain tweeted: “We have been in­formed that a van has run over wor­ship­pers as they left #Fins­buryPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the vic­tims.”

Video taken in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the in­ci­dent and posted on so­cial me­dia showed peo­ple scream­ing as by­standers per­formed chest com­pres­sions on one of the in­jured. Nearby, a man held a bloody cloth to his head.

He­li­copters buzzed over­head, and am­bu­lances and po­lice cars raced to the scene. The Lon­don am­bu­lance ser­vice said a “num­ber of re­sources have been sent to the scene in Seven Sis­ters Road.”

One woman who said she lives next to the scene told the BBC that she had heard yelling and screech­ing out­side her win­dow.

“Ev­ery­body was shout­ing: ‘A van’s hit peo­ple, a van’s hit peo­ple,’ ” she said.

A man told Bri­tain’s Press As­so­ci­a­tion that the van had swerved sud­denly and that he had nar­rowly avoided be­ing hit.

“Peo­ple were just con­vers­ing, talk­ing, just do­ing what we’re do­ing,” said the man, who de­clined to give his name. “And he just came into all of us. There was a lot of peo­ple. . . . I was shocked, shocked, shocked. There were bod­ies around me.”

He added: “Thank God I just moved to the side, I just jumped.”

Hours af­ter the in­ci­dent, as dawn broke, a large and an­gry crowd re­mained in the streets. Many called the in­ci­dent a ter­ror­ist at­tack, say­ing the driver had de­lib­er­ately tar­geted Mus­lims.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was made aware of the sit­u­a­tion be­fore dawn and re­leased a state­ment call­ing it “a ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent.”

Jeremy Cor­byn, the leader of the Labour Party said on Twit­ter he was “to­tally shocked.”

The Fins­bury Park Mosque — lo­cated in a vi­brant, mul­ti­cul­tural area of north Lon­don — was once closely as­so­ci­ated with ex­trem­ism. But in the past decade, the mosque has trans­formed its im­age, with its lead­er­ship out­spo­ken in ad­vo­cat­ing in­ter­faith har­mony.

Dur­ing the 2016 U. S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign — amid the furor of can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed Mus­lim ban — Cor­byn in­vited Trump to visit the mosque to show him how “mul­ti­cul­tural, mul­ti­faith” Bri­tain works.

The in­ci­dent early Mon­day fol­lows two re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Lon­don in which ve­hi­cles have been used as weapons, both on bridges over the Thames River.

Eight peo­ple were killed last month when at­tack­ers used a van to plow into pedes­tri­ans on Lon­don Bridge, then got out to stab restau­rant pa­trons with knives at the ad­ja­cent Bor­ough Mar­ket. In March, a lone at­tacker drove his car into peo­ple on West­min­ster Bridge, then fa­tally stabbed a po­lice of­fi­cer at the gates of Par­lia­ment.

In both cases, the at­tack­ers were shot dead by se­cu­rity forces.

NEIL HALL/REUTERS

DANIEL LEAL-OLI­VAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Mus­lims pray on a side­walk in the Fins­bury Park area of north Lon­don af­ter a ve­hi­cle hit pedes­tri­ans nearby early Mon­day morn­ing. The in­ci­dent oc­curred af­ter late Ra­madan prayers.

Pho­tos of the af­ter­math are at wash­ing­tonpost.com.

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