LONDON — One person died when a man drove a van at a group of worshippers who had left a north London mosque shortly after midnight on Monday and screamed that he wanted to “kill all Muslims,” a witness told BuzzFeed News.
The white van struck a group of men congregating a few hundred feet from the Finsbury Park Mosque on Seven Sisters Road after evening prayers, witnesses said.
Prime Minister Theresa May called it a “potential terrorist attack.” The Counter Terrorism Command is investigating.
One person has been arrested, the Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement, describing it as a “major incident.”
“Officers are on scene with other emergency services,” police said. “There are a number of casualties being worked on at the scene.”
“We have treated eight patients at the scene and taken them to three London hospitals,” said London Ambulance Service Deputy Director of Operations Kevin Bate. Two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi told BuzzFeed News the van swerved towards the men, who had been attending to an elderly man who had fallen down, perhaps due to exhaustion, at a bus stop near the Muslim Welfare House.
“This big van just came and went all over us,” Saleh Alamoudi said. “I think at least eight or 10 people were injured. Luckily I managed to escape, and then the guy came out of his van.”
The driver tried to run, Saleh Alamoudi said, but he and his two friends tackled the man, holding him down for some 20 minutes until police arrived. Police later said the driver “was found detained by members of public at the scene and then arrested by police in connection with the incident.”
“He was screaming before that — I’m going to kill all Muslims,” Saleh Alamoudi said. “He was throwing punches all over.”
Metropolitan Police said they were called to the scene 20 minutes after midnight on Monday.
“At this early stage of this investigation, no other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported to police, however the investigation continues,” police said, adding that “He has been taken to hospital as a precaution, and will be taken into custody once discharged. He will also be subject of a mental health assessment in due course.”
Police also said no one suffered any knife injuries, as some media outlets have reported.
“Extra policing resources have been deployed in order to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan,” police said.
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, “during the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship.”
“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,” Khan added.
“Many will feel terrorised, 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.”
Another man who claimed to be at the scene uploaded video to Twitter showing men screaming at a man who was being held by police.
The London Ambulance Service said paramedics were also at the scene.
“We have sent a number of ambulance crews, advance paramedics, and specialist responses teams to the scene,” London Ambulance Service Deputy Director of Operations Kevin Bate said in a statement. “An advance trauma team from London’s Air Ambulance has also been dispatched by car.”
Saleh Alamoudi and his friend, Ahmed Sharif, said it took one hour for medical help to arrive. They said they were upset that only one ambulance came, with “eight people on the floor.”
He uploaded video to his Facebook page showing emergency workers performing CPR on one person.
“It was heartbreaking, honestly,” Saleh Alamoudi said.
The London Fire Service also said they had sent “a number of resources” to the scene.
The incident occurred outside Muslim Welfare House, a community center at a major intersection near Finsbury Park Mosque, where prayers were scheduled to be held shortly before 11 p.m., according to the mosque’s website. The mosque had broadcast the prayer service live on YouTube.
“Our thoughts and prayers with those who got injured and effected [sic] by this cowardly attack in Finsbury Park area, many casualties in the floor,” the mosque’s chairman, Mohammed Kozbar, tweeted.
May, in a statement, described the situation as a “terrible incident.”
“All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.
In a statement on Facebook, London Mayor Saddiq Khan called the incident a “horrific terrorist attack on innocent people.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected. I am grateful to our emergency services, who responded quickly and have been working on the scene throughout the night,” Khan wrote. “We don’t yet know the full details, but this was clearly a deliberate attack on innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.”
“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,” Khan added, urging London’s residents to “remain calm and vigilant.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the MP for Islington North who lives near Finsbury Park, tweeted that he was “totally shocked” by what had occurred, adding he’d been in touch with local mosques.
Authorities have yet to specify what occurred. Several people at the scene early Monday morning said they were shocked that the authorities and some media outlets hadn’t called the incident a terror attack yet.
The Muslim Council said it is “widely being described as a terror attack.”
“So if the victim is Muslim, but the perpetrator is not Muslim, that means it can’t be terrorists in the eyes of the mainstream media?” asked Ahmed Kaballo, who says he works as a journalist and arrived early at the scene.
The incident comes after terror attacks in Manchester and London in recent, the latter of which involved, in part, a van striking pedestrians on London Bridge.
–James Ball reported from Finsbury Park in London. David Mack in New York, Michelle Broder Van Dyke in Honolulu, and Rich James in Sydney contributed to this report.