Van strikes crowd near mosque in London; one person is arrested

Police said early Monday that there were “a number of casualties” and that one person was arrested after a van struck a crowd of pedestrians, including worshipers leaving a pair of mosques in north London.

The incident occurred just after midnight in the northern part of the city, near the Finsbury Park Mosque and the Muslim Welfare House. Police said they closed the adjacent roadway in both directions and were dealing with “a major incident.” 

Early witness reports suggested that people had been struck as they left late-night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan. A van left the roadway and swerved into a large crowd standing on the sidewalk, witnesses reported.

The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted: “We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims.” 

There was no immediate information on the number of casualties.

Video posted on social media showed people screaming as bystanders performed chest compressions on one of the injured, and another man held a bloody cloth to his head.

Helicopters buzzed overhead, and ambulances and police cars raced to the scene. The London ambulance service said a “number of resources have been sent to the scene in Seven Sisters Road.”

One woman who said she lives next to the scene told the BBC that she had heard yelling and screeching outside her window.

“Everybody was shouting: ‘A van’s hit people, a van’s hit people,’ ” she said.

A man told Britain’s Press Association that the van had swerved suddenly and that he had narrowly avoided being hit. 

“People were just conversing, talking, just doing what we’re doing,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “And he just came into all of us. There was a lot of people. . . . I was shocked, shocked, shocked. There were bodies around me.”

He added: “Thank God I just moved to the side, I just jumped.”

The Finsbury Park Mosque — located in a vibrant, multicultural area of north London — was once closely associated with extremism. But in the past decade, the mosque has transformed its image, with its leadership outspoken in advocating interfaith harmony. 

During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign — amid the furor of candidate Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban — Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn invited Trump to visit Finsbury Park Mosque to show him how “multicultural, multifaith” Britain works.

The incident early Monday follows two recent terrorist attacks in London in which vehicles have been used as weapons, both on bridges for the Thames River.

Eight people were killed last month when attackers used a van to plow into pedestrians on London Bridge, then got out to stab restaurant-goers with knives at the adjacent Borough Market. In March, a lone attacker drove his car into people on Westminster Bridge, then fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates of Parliament. 

In both cases, the attackers were shot dead by security forces.