LONDON — A man died and 10 people were injured after a van was rammed into a crowd of worshipers near a mosque in north London on Monday morning in the latest terror attack to hit the United Kingdom this year.
Eyewitnesses reported chaotic scenes as the incident unfolded just after midnight, when evening Ramadan prayers had finished.
A 48-year-old white man was wrestled to the ground by members of the public and then arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, authorities said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was directed at Muslims and condemned it as “every bit as sickening” as deadly Islamist attacks that hit the country in recent months.
The van rammed into the worshipers on Seven Sisters Road, a busy thoroughfare in Finsbury Park, north London, near a Muslim community center and a mosque.
Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, confirmed witness accounts that the man found dead at the scene was already receiving first aid when the attack happened.
He said it was unclear whether he died as a result of the attack.
Eight other people were taken to hospital, two of whom were seriously injured, he said. Two people were treated at the scene.
Police believed the attacker acted alone despite earlier reports from witnesses, who had said they saw two other people flee the scene.
Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi said the attacker shouted “I did my bit, you deserve it.” An imam prevented people from taking revenge on the man, he said.
Speaking at Downing Street, May said police decided to treat the incident as a terror attack within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call.
Residents in Finsbury Park had criticized authorities for not declaring the incident as terrorism soon enough, and police only announced they were treating it as terror more than eight hours after the event.
“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship 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 which we share in this country,” May said.
“We will not let this happen.”
The assault comes on the heels of another attack at London Bridge, in which three men rammed a van into pedestrians and went on a stabbing spree at nearby bars and restaurants, killing eight people.
Monday’s attack is the third in London since March involving a vehicle as a weapon against pedestrians.
Emotions are high in the U.K. in the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks and a fire at a London apartment building that killed dozens.
Basu said it was a “challenging” time for London and that the emergency services were stretched.
Witnesses said they saw a van driving at high speed along Seven Sisters Road after worshipers had attended late-night prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Abdikadir Warfa said the van turned into an alleyway and hit a number of people before coming to a stop. Images from the scene show a white van wedged against a traffic barrier at the dead end of a street.
“I saw a man, he was underneath the van,” Warfa said, who described how his friends tried to lift the van to free him.
He said as he attended the injured, others grappled with the driver as he tried to run away.
Ratib Al-Sulaman was sitting two minutes away when the incident occurred.
“Some big van … crushing the people in the mosque. So we just run straight away, I see police, ambulance, people lying on the floor, and a van as well,” Sulaman said.
Warfa and Sulaman said there were three people originally in the van, and that two had run away. Police say they are investigating these reports but believe that only one person carried out the attack.
Saeed Hashi described how he fought with the driver, and how he and two others held him to the ground for 10 minutes as they waited for police to arrive.
“He punched me in the head,” Hashi said, showing his bruises.
Police have not named the man arrested, but the van bears the logo and phone number for Pontyclun Van Hire in south Wales.