Suspect in London van attack arrested on terror charges

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned Monday's apparent terror attack on Muslim worshipers near a north London mosque as "sickening" and vowed to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology "across society and on the Internet."

May spoke hours after a van slammed into a crowd outside Finsbury Park Mosque, injuring at least nine people. British media identified the suspect as Darren Osborne, 47, a father of four from Cardiff, Wales.

Witnesses told British media the suspect was shouting "Kill me, I've done my job" after the incident. He was detained by members of the public until police arrived, the Metropolitan Police said. He was arrested for "the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder," police said.

One man had been receiving first aid at the scene when the attack took place. Police said the man died but that it was not immediately clear whether his death was linked to the attack.

British Security Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC the suspect was not known to authorities and was believed to have acted alone.

The tragedy comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and follows three terror incidents in Britain in as many months. The other attacks were carried out by radicalized Muslims, and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

May said police officers arrived on the scene within a minute and that police declared the attack an act of terrorism a few minutes later. All the victims were members of the Muslim community, police said.

"This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship," May said in remarks outside her Downing Street office. "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."

May said her government would "stop at nothing" to defeat extremism. She later visited the mosque, meeting both with Muslims and representatives from a variety of faiths.

Eyewitness Abdul Rahman told the BBC that the driver of the van said he wanted to "kill all Muslims." Rahman told the British broadcaster that he hit the suspect and helped subdue him.

"I hit him on his stomach ... and then me and the other guys ... we held him to the ground until he couldn't move. We stopped him until the police came," Rahman said.

The London Ambulance Service said it transported nine patients to three London hospitals and treated others with lesser injuries at the scene.

Khadijh Sherazi, a Muslim  who lives next-door to Osborne, told The Guardian she never had problems with the suspect until he racially abused their son just days ago.

"He seemed a normal bloke, a normal family, normal kids, happy go lucky," she said. "He would also shout quite a lot but the kids seemed happy. I wouldn’t have said he was someone with mental problems."

Harun Khan, a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, described the incident as a hate crime against Muslims and called for extra security around mosques.

"Many will feel terrorized, no doubt be angry and saddened by what has taken place tonight," Khan said. "We urge calm as the investigation establishes the full facts, and in these last days of Ramadan, pray for those affected and for justice.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to serve in that position, said that "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."

Police Commissioner Cressida Dick called for calm. She said extra officers on duty to reassure residents would be patrolling the city, particularly at Muslim places of worship.

The Finsbury Park Mosque was associated with extremist ideology for several years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States but was shut down and reorganized. It has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.

The van attack is the latest in a string of tragedies for the nation. Earlier this month, a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge, after which three men entered a market wielding knives. Eight people were killed and many wounded, and three Muslim extremists who carried out the attack were killed by police.

In late May, a suicide bomber killed more than 20 people after a concert in Manchester. And in March, a driver plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, causing four deaths, then exited the vehicle and stabbed a police officer to death.

Monday's incident also comes as Britain was coming to terms with a high-rise fire that killed scores. Chronic mismanagement and disregard for fire safety measures by the building's landlord are suspected in that case.

"This attack comes at a difficult time for the city," May said.

The fire, plus the recent terror attacks, have stretched British authorities and left May's government, which suffered losses in a snap election this month, reeling. May has refused to step down and is attempting to build a majority coalition.

She remained resolute Monday. She said her government will be reviewing its counter-terrorism strategy to ensure that police and security services have the powers they need.

"Diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate — these are the values that define this city," she said. "These are the values that define this country. These are the values that this government will uphold. These are the values that will prevail."

 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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