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One Person Dead, One Arrested After Van Hits Pedestrians Near London Mosque In Potential Terror Attack


London's Finsbury Park Mosque (file photo)

A vehicle has rammed into pedestrians in the Finsbury Park area of north London outside the Muslim Welfare House near a mosque, killing one person and injuring several others in what is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, police say.

Police said a 48-year-old man has been arrested after what witnesses said was a deliberate attack on Muslim worshipers at around 12:15 a.m. local time on June 19. Police said the suspect has been taken to the hospital for a mental health assessment.

"One man was pronounced dead at the scene," police said.

The London Ambulance Service said it had taken eight people to hospital, while two were treated at the scene.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the attack was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months and called for extra security at places of worship.

The MCB said on Twitter that the incident occurred near the Finsbury Park Mosque and that a van "intentionally" hit worshipers leaving the mosque. The council called on the authorities to increase security around mosques.

The MCB said on Twitter that "we have been informed that a van has run over worshipers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims."

The MCB later said on Twitter that the incident occurred outside the Muslim Welfare House, which is near the mosque. The Welfare House, on Seven Sisters Road, provides social, educational, and training services for "marginalized and ethnic communities," according to its website.

The authorities said the male driver of the van "was found detained by members of the public at the scene and then arrested by police."

The incident occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people attend prayers at night.

The mosque itself gained notoriety for sermons by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison in January 2015 after his conviction on terrorism-related charges. The mosque was shut down and reorganized in 2005 and has not been linked to extremist views.

Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the crash is being investigated as a terrorist attack and said her thoughts were with those who had been hurt in "this terrible incident."

"All my thoughts are with those who have been injured, their loved ones, and the emergency services on the scene," she said.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said extra police had been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan, and said the attack was "an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect."

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party said he was "totally shocked" by the incident that "has left several people injured after witnesses said a van rammed into worshipers leaving a mosque."

A witness told the BBC that "from the window, I started hearing a lot of yelling and screeching, a lot of chaos outside...Everybody was shouting: 'A van’s hit people, a van’s hit people'."

"There was this white van stopped outside Finsbury Park Mosque that seemed to have hit people who were coming out after prayers had finished," the woman said. "I didn’t see the attacker himself, although he seems to have been arrested, but I did see the van."

Britain has been hit by a series of attacks in recent months, including a van-and-knife attack on London Bridge and a nearby market on June 3 that killed eight people and injured dozens.

On March 22, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. Five people were killed in that attack.

On May 22, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England.

The attacks played a role in campaigning ahead of the June 8 election, with Prime Minister May criticized for overseeing a drop of 20,000 in the number of police officers in England and Wales as home secretary from 2010 to 2016.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, Sky News, and the BBC
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