LONDON — One person has been arrested after a vehicle hit pedestrians in north London, injuring several people, police said Monday, as Muslim leaders said worshippers were mowed down after leaving a mosque.
Metropolitan Police said officers were called to the scene on Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park in north London at 12:20 a.m. local time Monday. Police said in a statement there were “a number of casualties”, adding that they were called to reports of “a vehicle in collision with pedestrians.
They confirmed that one person was arrested and that “a number of casualties [were] being worked on at the scene.”
The neighborhood has two mosques, and several hundred worshippers would have been in the area after attending prayers as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and end the day with an iftar meal at sunset.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing police give emergency medical treatment to at least one of the injured.
“We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body, said on Twitter.
Harun Khan, the head of the MCB, said the van had “intentionally” run over people leaving night prayers.
The president of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox private security group Shomrim, Rabbi Herschel Gluck who rushed to the scene told the Guardian: “It seems the van went onto the pavement people were there drinking coffee after their fast. We are here to support the local community. The hurt are predominantly Muslim.”
A witness, Boubou Sougou, 23, told the Guardian that the collision “was not an accident, I saw everything. People were badly injured. The van driver tried to escape but people grabbed him. He did not say anything.”
An AFP reporter could see a helicopter and many emergency vehicles at the scene, which was closed off by a large police cordon.
“We saw lots of people shouting and lots of people injured,” David Robinson, 41, who arrived just after the accident, told AFP.
Traffic was shut down on a section of Seven Sisters Road, where the incident happened.
The London Ambulance Service said it had sent “a number of resources” to the scene.
The mosque near Seven Sisters was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists. Its former imam Abu Hamza was jailed for life in New York on terrorism charges in 2015. He preached there from 1997 to 2003 before being jailed for inciting violence. He was later extradited to the United States.
In 2015, the mosque was one of around 20 that took part in an open day organized by the MCB to promote better understanding of Islam following the deadly terror attacks in Paris that year.
Britain has been on high alert following a pair of attacks in recent weeks that claimed the lives of some 30 people. Its terror alert has been set at “severe” meaning an attack is highly likely.
Earlier this month, three terrorists carried out a vehicular attack followed by a stabbing spree in London that left eight people dead and dozens wounded. The attackers were killed by police.
In Manchester in late May, a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including many children, at an arena where a pop concert had just ended.
Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
In March, a terrorist drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London, killing four, and fatally stabbed a policeman guarding the gates of parliament before being shot dead by armed officers.