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Monday Jun 19 2017

Finsbury Park mosque attacker identified

Police officers attend to the scene after a vehicle collided with pedestrians near a mosque in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

LONDON: The man arrested for carrying out the terror attack outside Finsbury Park mosque in London, which claimed the life of one person and left 10 others injured, has been identified.

47-year old Darren Osborne, the driver of the van, was restrained by people outside the mosque and was initially arrested by the police on suspicion of murder. He was detained again later for terror offences, according to local media reports. 

A van ploughed into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque early on Monday, making it the second terror attack this month in the British capital.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the "sickening" incident, saying Britain's determination to fight "terrorism, extremism, and hatred… must be the same, whoever is responsible".

Osborne, a white man from Cardiff who police believe acted alone, was detained by people at the scene before being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The Finsbury Park Mosque in north London said the van "deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers" near the Muslim Welfare House, shortly after midnight.

Police arrest the attacker-Reuters

Others linked the attack to an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly since the London Bridge rampage on June 3, which left eight people dead and was claimed by Daesh.

"This was an attack on London and all Londoners and we should all stand together against extremists whatever their cause," said Neil Basu, senior counter-terrorism officer for the Metropolitan Police.

Basu added that it had "all the hallmarks" of a terrorist attack.

It unfolded as a 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, Basu said.

Ten people were hurt, all of them Muslims, with eight of them requiring hospital treatment. Two of them were in a very serious condition, police said.

A witness, Abdiqadir Warra, told AFP that the van "drove at people" and that some of the victims were carried for several metres along the road.

"He was shouting, 'All Muslims, I want to kill all Muslims'," another witness, Khalid Amin, told BBC television.

Basu praised locals for detaining the man, saying that their "restraint in the circumstances was commendable".

‘Attack being treated as terrorism’

Basu has confirmed the incident is being treated as an act of terrorism. He added that eight people are in the hospital and two others were treated at the scene.

"Any causative link between [the death of the man receiving first aid] and the attack will form part of our investigation. It is too early to state if his death was as a result of the attack,” further said the police official.

"[The assailant] wanted to run away and was saying 'I want to kill Muslims’,” a witness told the Press Association.

Community in shock

The use of a vehicle to mow down pedestrians drew horrifying parallels with the June 3 attack, when three men drove a van into pedestrians before embarking on a stabbing spree, with another car and knife rampage in Westminster back in March.

This time, however, the attacker appeared to have deliberately targeted the 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 (MCB).

After the London Bridge attack, the mayor's office reported a 40 percent increase in racist incidents in the city and a fivefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim incidents.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, described it as "cowardly".

"Our community is in shock," he said, urging people attending prayers to remain vigilant.

The message was echoed by police, who said extra officers had been deployed to reassure Muslim communities in London and that security outside mosques would be reviewed.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was a "horrific terrorist attack" aimed at "innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramazan".

'Extraordinary city'

It was the third major incident that hit the capital in the past few weeks, following the London Bridge attack and last week's devastating fire in the Grenfell Tower block, in which 79 people are thought to have died.

"This is an extraordinary city of extraordinary people," May said in a statement outside Downing Street, after chairing an emergency government meeting on the attack.

"It is home to a multitude of communities that together make London one of the greatest cities on earth. Diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident, and determined never to give in to hate."

The Finsbury Park Mosque reported that it had received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris.

Some locals came onto the street in support of the mosque on Monday, holding up signs saying, "We love our mixed community" and "Leave our Muslim neighbours alone".

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