The man suspected of mowing down a crowd exiting Ramadan prayers at a London mosque early Monday was captured on video blowing a kiss at bystanders as he was hauled off to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
At least one person was killed and 10 others were injured in the assault, which authorities were treating as a terrorist attack.
A 48-year-old man was arrested in the collision with pedestrians outside the Muslim Welfare House, Metropolitan police said. People at the scene shouted at him: “Why did you do that? Why?”
The incident occurred outside the Finsbury Park Mosque shortly after midnight after Ramadan prayers. Police said all of the injured were members of the Muslim community. Muslim leaders decried the collision as a hate crime and asked the public to stay calm.
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Police said eight of the injured were taken to three hospitals and two suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
Witnesses reported seeing at least one person receiving chest compressions. Police said that person was the lone death in the incident, but it was unclear if it was the van that caused the death.
Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as a “sickening” attempt to destroy liberties that unite Britain, such as freedom of worship. She added that the man acted alone. May said earlier she would chair an emergency security Cabinet session later Monday and that her thoughts were with the injured, their loved ones and emergency officials who responded to the incident.
A leader of the Muslim Council of Britain called for extra security at mosques in light of the apparent attack. The group’s general secretary, Harun Khan, described the incident as a hate crime against Muslims.
“During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship,” he said. “It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to serve in that position, said extra police would be deployed. He called the incident a “horrific terrorist attack.”
Video filmed in the immediate aftermath showed a Caucasian man being detained by police. Someone in the crowd yelled to others not to harm the man while he was taken into custody, according to AP.
The chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque said the van crash that hit worshippers was a “cowardly attack” and urged Muslims going to mosques to be vigilant.
Mohammed Kozbar said the Muslim community is “in shock.” He complained that the “mainstream media” was unwilling to call the attack a terrorist incident for many hours.
London police closed the area to normal traffic. A helicopter circled above the area as a large cordon was established to keep motorists and pedestrians away.
Witnesses told British media that the van seemed to have veered off the road and hit people intentionally. They also said two men jumped out of the van and fled the scene, but police said the suspect was only one man and the investigation is still ongoing.
Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim organization, said that based on eyewitness reports, it seems to be a “deliberate attack against innocent Muslims.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a tweet he was shocked by the incident.
Britain’s terrorist alert has been set at “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.