U.K. Police Investigating Van Attack in London as Terrorism

The authorities in Britain said on Monday that they were treating an early morning attack near a mosque in London as a possible act of terrorism, amid fears of retaliatory attacks after several recent assaults attributed to Islamist extremists in the country.

Neil Basu, the senior national coordinator for counterterrorism at the Metropolitan Police, said that the assailant, whom the police identified as a 48-year-old white man, was believed to have acted alone. Mr. Basu also praised the bystanders who had intervened to detain the suspect, and he urged residents to remain calm and vigilant.

“No matter what the motivation proves to be, and we are keeping an open mind, this is being treated as a terrorist attack and the Counter Terrorism Command is investigating,” Mr. Baku said.

One man was found dead at the scene, although Mr. Basu said it was too early to say if he had died as a result of the attack, in which 10 people were injured; eight people were hospitalized and two were treated at the scene.

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“This was an attack on London and all Londoners,” Mr. Basu said, adding that all of the victims were Muslim.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, said that she would lead an emergency meeting later Monday about the case. “All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” she said.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, condemned what he called a “horrific terrorist attack” on innocent Londoners. Mr. Khan, who is Muslim, sought to reassure Muslim communities across the country during the holy month of Ramadan, and said the police presence would be increased across the capital.

The attack on Monday immediately raised the question of whether it was an act of retaliation and the result of Islamophobia. Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that counterterrorism officers were investigating.

Britain has been roiled by a series of calamities that have tested the nation’s resilience. In March, an assailant mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed a police officer outside Parliament.

In May, at least 22 people were killed at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, including many teenagers and an 8-year-old girl.

In early June, at least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded after two men sped across London Bridge in a white van, ramming numerous pedestrians before emerging with large hunting knives for a rampage in Borough Market, a crowded nightspot.


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And last week, a fire tore through a 24-story public housing high-rise, killing at least 58 people, and provoking widespread accusations that the fire could have been prevented.

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In the attack on Monday, the driver of the van was arrested after bystanders prevented him from fleeing, the police said in a statement. Mr. Basu of the Metropolitan Police praised the witnesses who intervened, saying they had responded quickly and calmly to the police even while they were shaken, scared and angry.

Mr. Basu said the police had received a number of calls shortly after midnight reporting that a van had rammed into pedestrians, and that officers in the area had responded instantly.

One witness, Mahroof Mohammed, said he was having his evening tea at a Somali restaurant on Seven Sisters Road when he heard people running.

He went outside and saw several injured people. “There were seven or eight. Three of them were bleeding badly,” he said. “They were all leaving the mosque when they got hit.”

Mr. Mohammed said that most of the victims he saw were men, but that he also saw one older woman injured, adding that “three local men that were holding the man from the van until police came.”

Mr. Basu said the investigation was continuing, as the authorities try to determine how and why the attack took place, and that extra policing resources had been deployed across London.

There were reports that other people had fled from the van after the attack, but Mr. Basu seemed to discount that theory, saying there were no other suspects.

The Finsbury Park Mosque opened in 1994 and became a hotbed of Islamist militants, including Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman convicted of conspiring to kill Americans as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Richard C. Reid, who tried to down an American jetliner in late 2001 with explosives packed in his shoes. In 2015, the mosque’s former imam, Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, was sentenced to life in prison in Federal District Court in Manhattan on 11 terrorism-related charges.

The mosque was raided by the authorities in January 2003, and in February 2005 it was reconstituted — “run by a new board of trustees with a new management team, new imams, a new name and new ethos,” according to its website. Five stories tall with space for 1,800 worshipers, it is a major house of worship for North London, in an area known for a large immigrant population.


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