NEW LAYER OF LONDON TERROR
Suspect not known to authorities before mosque rampage
People gathered for a vigil Monday at Finsbury Park in north London, where a van plowed into Muslim worshippers leaving mosques from Ramadan prayers just after midnight. One man died at the scene, and at least nine people were injured. The assailant used the same tactic as Islamic extremists in recent deadly terrorist attacks in Europe.
LONDON | The rash of deadly terror attacks that has rattled Britain in recent months took an ominous new turn on Monday as Muslim worshippers became targets during the holy month of Ramadan, mowed down by an attacker who plowed a van into a crowd leaving prayers at two mosques in north London.
It was the same tactic Islamic extremists used in recent assaults on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge. Those attacks and a third outside a pop concert in Manchester have triggered a surge in hate crimes against Muslims around Britain.
British authorities, including Prime Minister Theresa May, and Islamic leaders moved swiftly to ease concerns in the Muslim community following the attack shortly after midnight that injured at least nine people in London’s Finsbury Park neighborhood, which is home to a large Muslim population.
Authorities said the incident was being treated as a terror attack. One man died at the scene, although he was receiving first aid at the time and it wasn’t clear if he died as a result of the attack or from something else.
British media identified the suspect as Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old Briton and father of four living in Cardiff, Wales, who was not known to authorities before the attack. Details about the assailant were sketchy, but the assault — the most dramatic against Muslims in London in recent years — suggested a new, dangerous level of polarization in British society.
“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” Mrs. May said in a televised address. “And like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart — and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country. We will not let this happen.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, also urged residents to stand together.
“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,” Mr. Khan said, adding that there would be “zero tolerance” for hate crimes.
Mrs. May said police would assess security at mosques and provide any additional resources needed ahead of upcoming celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.
The Metropolitan Police Service, already stretched by investigations of the earlier attacks and a high-rise apartment fire that killed at least 79 people, said it was putting extra patrols on the streets to protect the public.
The attack occurred about 12:20 a.m. when a speeding white van swerved into worshippers emerging from prayers outside the Muslim Welfare House and nearby Finsbury Park Mosque. People surrounded the driver and witnesses said the outraged crowd began attacking him. A local imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, said he and others shielded the man until police could take him away.
“By God’s grace, we were able to protect him from harm,” the imam said.
Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, told Sky News the attack clearly targeted Muslims, saying the driver acted deliberately and was not drunk or mentally ill.
“The driver of the van, said, ‘I did my bit,’ which means he’s not mentally ill,” Mr. Kacimi said. “This person was conscious. He did what he did deliberately to hit and kill as many Muslims as possible, so he is a terrorist.”
But Mr. Kacimi said there was no need for the Muslim community to panic, because police and government officials have been “very, very supportive.”
“At this stage, we are calling for calm,” he said.
U.S. officials said President Trump was being regularly briefed on the incident and “strongly condemned” the rampage. The administration “made it very clear to our British allies that we stand ready to provide any support or assistance they need,” spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters in Washington.
The attack occurred outside the Muslim Welfare House, a small mosque with about 200 congregants. Nearby, evening prayer services had just concluded at the larger Finsbury Park Mosque, which was associated with extremist ideology for several years after the 9/11 attacks. However, the mosque was shut down and reorganized and has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.
The mosque’s current leaders say they support interfaith dialogue and want to serve the community in north London, which is located near Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal soccer club.
“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” said Prime Minister Theresa May (second right). Authorities said they were treating it as a terror attack.