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Vehicle Hits Pedestrians in London; One Person Arrested -- 4th Update

19 Jun 2017 4:12 am
By Jenny Gross and Wiktor Szary 

LONDON -- A vehicle struck pedestrians in north London early Monday, causing at least one death and a number of casualties in what police called a major incident.

A 48-year-old man was detained by members of the public at the scene and arrested, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. He has been taken to a hospital as a precaution and will be taken into custody once discharged, the police said.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene, the police said. Eight people were taken to hospitals for treatment, while two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, the police said.

"At this stage there are no reports of any person having suffered knife injuries," the police said, after some media reports that the van's driver stabbed people.

Mohamed Abdulle, a 20-year-old delivery truck driver, said he was driving two cars behind the van when it swerved into a crowd of people shortly after midnight. He saw two people run from the van and people at a nearby shop tackled and held a third person until the police came.

The attackers looked like they were in their mid-30s or mid-40s and were white, he said.

"He just swerved into the corner," Mr. Abdulle said. "I've seen six people on the floor. All I could see was people scattered on the floor."

The Counter Terrorism Command is investigating the incident. No other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported, the police said. "Due to the nature of the incident the police will deploy extra resources to reassure the public, especially those observing Ramadan," the police said.

The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents Muslim organizations and mosques around the U.K., said a van ran over Muslim worshipers as they left the Finsbury Park Mosque. "Our prayers are with the victims," it said on Twitter.

The council later tweeted that the attack took place outside the Muslim Welfare House near the mosque, not outside the Finsbury Park Mosque itself.

"It appears from eye witness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia," said Harun Khan, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, in a statement. "We urge calm as the investigation establishes the full facts, and in these last days of Ramadan, pray for those affected and for justice."

"This is a terrible incident," Prime Minister Theresa May said. "All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones, and the emergency services on the scene."

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, said he was "totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight," adding he was in touch with the mosques, police and local authorities.

The incident comes less than a month after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22, many of them teenagers. The U.K.'s terrorism threat level was briefly raised to its highest, critical level following the Manchester attack, but was subsequently lowered to severe, meaning an attack is seen as highly likely.

At Finsbury Park, a 23-year-old graduate student who declined to give his name said he was leaving prayers when he heard screaming. "I was literally walking past," he said. "Man. People were shouting, people were crying."

He said: "Why is it when it's anyone that's Muslim, straight away, they say it's a terror attack. Why can't this be a terror attack?"

"It's a white terrorist," another person shouted. People gathered outside the Finsbury Park subway station waiting for news about what had happened.

Saeed Hashi, a 28-year-old who works at a London subway station, said he was smoking a cigarette near Finsbury Park Mosque after prayers when he saw a van speed into three people, including an older woman, and then continue to knock down another few people.

"We saw a van was driving very fast, so we thought at the beginning he wanted to catch the traffic light," Mr. Hashi said. "But he didn't. He hit a woman first and then two men. He carried on, and another three, or four, or five."

Mr. Hashi said when the attacker jumped out of the van, he and five others pinned him to the ground and waited for police to arrive.

The man screamed obscenities about Muslim people as he tried to wrestle out of their grips.

Mr. Hashi said the attacker, a muscular man with a tattoo, bruised him and ripped his white T-shirt as he held him down. He said he also saw two other attackers flee the scene.

"We thought at the beginning he was drunk on something, but when I came near him, he didn't smell like alcohol."

Mr. Hashi said he saw a woman bleeding from her legs and other people on the ground. Emergency officials tried to resuscitate a man on the ground, he said.

Mr. Hashi said he was in a state of shock.

"I was walking, and I thought I was dreaming or something," he said. "It's just a hate crime against religion. Tomorrow they will say he was mentally ill."

This is the latest incident in London in which vehicles appear to have been used as a weapon. This month, three assailants mowed down people on London Bridge before stabbing them with knives, in an attack that killed eight people. In March, an attacker used a vehicle to hit pedestrians outside the British Parliament, killing five.

The Egyptian-born radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was jailed for life by a U.S. court for supporting terrorism, used to preach at the Finsbury Park Mosque.

In 2005, the mosque changed its board of trustees and imams. It hasn't been linked to extremism since the changes.

Write to Jenny Gross at jenny.gross@wsj.com and Wiktor Szary at Wiktor.Szary@wsj.com
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 19, 2017 00:12 ET (04:12 GMT)

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