Police are treating an attack on Muslims in north London in which which ten Muslims were injured, some critically, as a terror attack, Prime Minister Theresa May said this morning. One man was also found dead after the attack, condemned by the Archbishop of Canterbury as 'wanton and cruell' and a crime against God and humanity.
The act of what appears to be tit-for-tat terror left at least ten injured when a white van was driven into worshippers leaving mosques in Finsbury Park, north London early this morning.
Police are treating the attack in the Seven Sisters Road at about 12.20 British Summer Time as a suspected terrorist incident.
The 48-year-old suspect was pinned to the ground by worshippers. The imam of the mosque intervened to protect the attacker from some angry onlookers. When police arrived, he was then arrested and led away in handcuffs. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
The attack was timed to coincide with the end of prayers during Ramadan, when Muslims were going home after night-time prayers for their early morning meal before today's fast. It took place near several mosques including Finsbury Park Mosque, and the community centre Muslim Welfare House.
It is the latest in a series of shocking incidents in the UK. The country is still dealing with the aftermath of the terror attacks in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge, and the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
The attacker is believed to have been a lone-wolf. He drove into a group of Muslims who were helping a friend who had been taken ill on the roadside. Police arrested the man on suspicion of attempted murder because the cause of death of the person who died is not yet clear.
Eight of those injured are being treated in hospital.
'He did what he did deliberately, to hit and attack as many Muslims as possible,' said one onlooker.
Another, a delivery man, said he saw the van driver deliberately move into the bus lane in the road and then veer left off the bus lane onto the pavement where worshippers were walking. 'All I could see was people getting hit.'
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote on his Facebook page: 'The freedom to worship without fear is a right we cherish as a nation and was won at great human cost over many years. The appalling attack on Muslims in Finsbury Park is an attack on us all and on the culture and values of our country.
'At a time when we are all grieving the loss of so many precious people in London and Manchester, this brutal attack can only compound the trauma. Violence only begets more violence- it serves only the interests of those who would terrorise others. This wanton and cruel act can produce no good and cannot be justified or excused. In exactly the same way as previous recent attacks it is a crime against God and against humanity.'
The Church of England asked for prayers for all affected.
The Muslim Council of Britain described it as a deliberate act of Islamophobia.
In a statement this morning, the MCB said, 'According to eye witness accounts and videos taken after the incident, it appears that a white man in a van intentionally ploughed into a group of worshippers who were already tending to someone who had been taken ill. We do not know how many were injured or killed, but our prayers are with the victims and families.'
Harun Khan, MCB secretary general, said: 'During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. My prayers are with the victims and their families. It appears from eye witness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia.
'Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date.
'Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency.
'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.
'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.'
Theresa May said it was being treated as a terrorist incident. 'All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,' she said. She is to hold an emergency Cobra meeting this morning on the attack.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: 'My thoughts are with all those affected by the appalling incident at Finsbury Park.' She confirmed it was being investigated by the Metropolitan police Counter Terror Unit. 'Yesterday, like so many others around the country, I took part in the Great Get Together to celebrate the values of Jo Cox. It was powerful and moving to see the community come together in a show of solidarity. We must all continue to stand together, resolute, against all those who try to divide us and spread hate and fear.'
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said the attack was 'an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect'.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was 'totally shocked'.
The incident comes just over two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight..
The Muslim Council said Monday's attack was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months and called for extra security at places of worship.
The Finsbury Park Mosque gained notoriety more than a decade ago for sermons by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison in January 2015 for his conviction on terrorism-related charges.
A new board of trustees and management took over in February 2005, a year after Abu Hamza was arrested by British police, since when attendance has greatly increased among worshippers from various communities, according to the mosque's website.
Additonal reporting by Reuters