UK mosque attack suspect identified, arrested on suspicion of terror offenses
Tolga AKMEN (AFP)
The man suspected of plowing a van into Muslims taking a break from late-night prayers in London has now been arrested on terror grounds, police said Monday.
The 47-year-old man was arrested for attempted murder after the incident in Finsbury Park early Monday. One man was pronounced dead at the scene.
"He has further been arrested for the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder," Scotland Yard police headquarters said in a statement.
The suspect, who has yet to be formally identified by authorities, was named by British media outlets as Darren Osborne, a father of four born in Wales who has been living in Cardiff.
British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the assault as "sickening", saying Britain's determination to fight "terrorism, extremism and hatred... must be the same, whoever is responsible".
Officers close by attended the scene instantly, the attack was declared as a terrorist incident within eight minutes and armed officers were on the scene within 10 minutes, police said.
The suspect remains in custody at a London police station.
"At this stage in the investigation, it is believed that the suspect acted alone but we are of course investigating all the circumstances leading up to the attack," the statement said.
It said searches were being carried out at a residential address in the Cardiff area in Wales.
The Finsbury Park Mosque said the van "deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers" at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House shortly after midnight.
Many linked the attack to an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly since a van and knife rampage in the capital on June 3 that left eight people dead, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.
London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was "quite clearly an attack on Muslims" and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.
The attack unfolded as an elderly man was receiving first aid from members of the public in an unrelated incident.
The man later died, though it is not yet clear whether his death was linked to the attack, said Neil Basu, the police senior national counter-terror coordinator.
Ten people were hurt, all Muslims, with eight requiring hospital treatment. Two were in a very serious condition, police said.
The use of a vehicle to mow down pedestrians drew horrifying parallels with this month's London Bridge attack, when three men drove a van into pedestrians before embarking on a stabbing spree, and with another car and knife rampage near parliament in March.
This time the attacker appeared to have deliberately targeted Muslims.
"Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia and this is the most violent manifestation to date," said Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body.
After the London Bridge attack, city mayor Sadiq Khan's office reported a 40 percent increase in racist incidents in the capital and a five-fold increase in anti-Muslim incidents.
Khan said it was a "horrific terrorist attack" aimed at "innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan".
The Finsbury Park Mosque was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists but has changed markedly in recent years under new management.
Its former imam, Abu Hamza, was jailed for life in New York on terrorism charges in 2015.
Despite the change in leadership and the focus on bolstering inter-faith relations, the mosque reported it had received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Some locals came onto the street in support of the mosque on Monday, carrying signs saying "We love our mixed community" and "Leave our Muslim neighbors alone".
You need to be logged in in order to post comments. Sign up or log in