A van drove into a crowd of people in front of a mosque in London tonight. Some witnesses are reporting that up to 10 people were injured. The nature and extent of their injuries are unknown.
According to CNN terror analyst Peter Bergen, the mosque has historically been a hotbed of radicalism.
Police arrested one man, although some bystanders say up to three men jumped out of the van.
“If you were interested in targeting a group of Muslims at a mosque that was notorious, this would be the mosque you would do it at. I think it’s significant that they had the reputation historically of being one of the most militant mosques in London. And that reputation may be more historical than current,” he said.
Bergen added: “Ramadan, particularly in a country like the UK, where the days are very long in June, you know you’re fasting from dawn to dusk and you’re breaking the fast at night. … Night comes pretty late in London this time of year. It wouldn’t be odd that you would have large numbers of people breaking their fasts and praying at this time.”
The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted, “We have been informed that a van has run over worshipers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims.”
Opened in 1994, Finsbury Park Mosque is an unassuming five-story redbrick building in residential north London, close to Arsenal Football Club’s Emirates Stadium. The mosque, which today operates largely as a community center, rose to international notoriety in the early 2000s, due to its links with Egyptian-born radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri.
Abu Hamza, who was the mosque’s imam from 1997 to 2003, was later extradited to the United States, where he was convicted of supporting al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, and sentenced to life in prison in 2015. Among those known to have worshiped at the mosque during Abu-Hamza’s time there are convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker of September 11.
The Islington borough of North London, of which Finsbury Park is a part, is home to a large Muslim community. Around 10% of the borough’s population is Muslim.
Islington‘s Seven Sisters Road, where the attack took place, is home to at least four mosques, and would have likely been filled with worshipers leaving late-night taraweeh prayers and heading back toward the Finsbury Park Underground Station.
— Tom Hirst (@Thomasvanhulle) June 18, 2017
One report says that the man arrested shouted “kill all the Muslims” during the attack. You can draw you own conclusions about the veracity of that statement.
We will certainly hear more about this incident as the day goes on. Right now, we can only hope there were no fatalities and that the injured are not too badly hurt.