London van attack suspect unknown to security services

Above: Floral tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London yesterday. In the attack, which killed one person and injured 10 others, a van swerved into worshippers leaving after prayers at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House. Left:
Above: Forensic experts examining the scene in Finsbury Park near the van that was used in yesterday's attack.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Above: Floral tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London yesterday. In the attack, which killed one person and injured 10 others, a van swerved into worshippers leaving after prayers at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House. Left:
Above: Floral tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London yesterday. In the attack, which killed one person and injured 10 others, a van swerved into worshippers leaving after prayers at the mosque and the nearby Muslim Welfare House. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

48-year-old white male, believed to have acted alone, allegedly drove vehicle into Muslims leaving mosque

LONDON • The suspect accused of driving a van into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque early yesterday was a white male unknown to security services and is believed to have acted alone, the authorities said.

One person died and 10 were injured in the terror attack, the third in Britain in less than a month.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the incident as "sickening", and pledged to increase security around mosques ahead of Hari Raya Puasa.

The attack occurred shortly after midnight, when the van swerved into worshippers leaving after prayers at Muslim Welfare House and nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, witnesses said.

They said the driver targeted a group giving first aid to an elderly man who had collapsed on the street in an unrelated incident near Muslim Welfare House. The man later died, but it is not yet clear if his death was linked to the attack, police said.

All 10 of the injured are Muslims, with eight of them requiring hospital treatment. Two were in a very serious condition, said police.

The 48-year-old van driver was detained by people at the scene, and then arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The Daily Mirror identified him as father-of-four Darren Osborne, who was originally from Weston- super-Mare in North Somerset, and now lived in Cardiff, Wales. He was reported to have been born in Singapore in 1969.

The suspect was not known to the security services, Mr Ben Wallace, Junior Minister for Security in the Home Office, or the Interior Ministry, told Sky News.

The incident had "all the hallmarks" of a terrorist attack, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, a senior counter-terrorism officer from the Metropolitan Police, told reporters. He called on all Londoners to stand together against extremists, whatever their cause.

Some people linked the attack to a sharp increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, particularly since the London Bridge rampage on June 3 that left eight people dead. That attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

In addressing those fears, Mrs May said hatred and evil would never succeed, and described the latest attack as "every bit as sickening as those which have come before".

She later visited Finsbury Park Mosque and met representatives from a variety of faiths inside.

Witness Abdiqadir Warra told Agence France-Presse that some of the victims were carried for several metres along the road by the van.

Another witness, Mr Khalid Amin, told BBC television: "(The driver) was shouting: 'All Muslims, I want to kill all Muslims.' "

The use of a vehicle to mow down pedestrians drew parallels with the London Bridge attack, when three men drove a van into pedestrians before going on a stabbing spree, as well as with another car-and-knife rampage in Westminster in March.

This time, however, the attacker appears to have deliberately targeted Muslims. "Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date," said Mr Harun Khan, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body.

Singapore also condemned the attack. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that such violent acts should remind Singaporeans that they must remain vigilant, and "not allow mistrust and enmity to be sowed in society".

"That this heinous attack had taken place during the Holy Month of Ramadan is even more disturbing," the statement said. "We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the victim, and we hope that the injured will make a quick recovery."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'London van attack suspect unknown to security services'. Print Edition | Subscribe