Another day, another horrifying and tragic event, but it seems that the terrorist attack on a mosque in Finsbury Park could have been worse had it not been for the calm and measured responses of people on the scene.
At least one person has been confirmed dead and eight others injured after a van mounted the pavement and drove into a group of worshippers in a terrorist attack outside the Muslim Welfare House on Seven Sisters Road at around 12:20am on Monday morning.
Witnesses described what happened when the driver emerged from his van.
A man who wanted to be identified as Abdulrahman said that he and his friends had stopped to help an elderly man who was lying in the street and appeared to be in distress.
He told the Press Association: “In seconds this terrible thing happened. Literally within a minute, a van with speed turned to where we were and ran over the man who was laying on the floor and the people around him, around eight people or 10 people got injured, some of them seriously. Thank God I’m safe, but my friends got injured.
“I managed to get the driver of the van when he came out of his van. He wanted to run away and was saying, ‘I want to kill Muslims’. So he came back to the main road and I managed to get him to the ground and me and some other guys managed to hold him until the police arrived, for about 20 minutes I think, until the police arrived.
“People were very upset, people were shouting, people were saying, ‘where’s the police, where’s the ambulance?’ People were saying, ‘keep him on the ground’, people were asking questions, saying ‘why did you do this?’ People were laying down on the floor.”
He added: “He was screaming, he was saying ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims, I’m going to kill all Muslims’. He was throwing punches. Then we managed to get him on the floor. Then he was saying ‘Kill me, kill me’. I said ‘We are not going to kill you. Why did you do that?’ He wouldn’t say anything.”
Another witness, Abdikadar Warfa, said:
“I tried to stop him (the suspect), some people were hitting him but I said stop him and keep him until the police came. He was trying to run away but people overpowered him. He was fighting to run away."
Salah Alamoudi said he had also helped to hold the suspect on the ground for up to half an hour before police arrived (other reports seem to suggest the response time was actually quicker than this), saying:
"The guy, I had to keep him at least half an hour. He was a strong guy. A big man. It was heartbreaking. It wasn't an accident."
The man was pinned to the floor but it seems that there was no violence toward the man from any of those restraining him.
When police arrived to arrest the man, imam Mohammed Mahmoud led calls for people to stay calm, urging the crowd not to harm the suspect. He and others put their hands up and formed a barrier around an officer who was attempting to put him into the back of a police van.
Eyewitness Hussain Ali, 28, told the Press Association that “the leader of the mosque said ‘You do not touch him’. He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him. All the police and helicopters came after around eight minutes.”
Speaking after the attack, the Muslim Welfare House issued a statement saying:
“All of us at Muslim Welfare House sends our thoughts and prayers to the victims and those injured in the major incident at Finsbury Park. The Muslim Community in this area is horrified at this incident and is concerned and shocked at the events.
“We have worked very hard over decades to build a peaceful and tolerant community here in Finsbury Park and we totally condemn any act of hate that tries to drive our wonderful community apart. We would appeal for calm at this time. It is unhelpful for there to be speculation about the incident.
“All of our efforts should be towards getting justice for the victims and ensuring our community stays the diverse, tolerant and welcome place we know it to be. We call on all, including the media, to act responsibly at this time.
‘We have already met with the Police, Council and our local MP Jeremy Corbyn. We would like to thank them for their support. Our mosque and welfare centre provides vital support to many people in North London and we will continue to do this despite this incident.
“Muslim Welfare House has always welcomed the whole community. Only a few days ago we hosted a Great Get Together in memory of Jo Cox, attended by people of every faith and background. I would like to particularly thank our Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life.
“The Police should be given time to do their job. We will issue another statement later when more information has emerged.”