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Muslim Worshippers Targeted In Latest London Terror Attack


The method of the attack was one that's now familiar - a rented van. But this time, the targets were different - Muslims leaving services at a mosque. A man drove into them early this morning in north London. Police describe the suspect as a 47-year-old white man. One person is dead, though it's not clear he died from the attack. Eight are in the hospital. This is the third terror attack in the British capital in three months. London mayor Sadiq Khan spoke at the scene earlier today.


SADIQ KHAN: These have been a terrible few weeks for London, unprecedented in recent times. We will stay a strong city.

MCEVERS: This latest attack occurred in Finsbury Park, home to a mosque once notorious for its extremist preacher. But now it's credited with turning itself around. NPR's Frank Langfitt has more from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: A group of worshippers were on the sidewalk outside the Muslim Welfare House just after midnight. One man collapsed, and the group stopped and found him a chair to sit on, witnesses say. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a white van came roaring towards them.

MOHAMMED MAHMUD: Around five minutes after we finished prayers, a brother came in quite panicked and said that somebody had run over a group of people and tried to kill them.

LANGFITT: That's Mohammed Mahmud. He serves as imam at the Welfare House, a charity. He spoke to reporters earlier today. Mahmud said he rushed out to find worshipers tending the injured and three men restraining the van driver. Veerhad Lie Shur (ph), a local artist, said he arrived 10 minutes after the attack. He said the van driver admitted he targeted the worshipers.

VEERHAD LIE SHUR: He tried to resist people's hold of him, and he tried - let me kill; let me kill.

LANGFITT: He said, let me kill.

SHUR: Yeah, let me. He came to kill Muslim.

LANGFITT: You heard this.

SHUR: Yeah, everybody hear it.

LANGFITT: Other witnesses heard the quote slightly differently, but they say the meaning was clear. Mahmud, the local imam, said he spotted a passing police van.

MAHMUD: So we flagged them down. We told them the situation, that there's a man. He's restrained. And there's a mob attempting to hurt him. If you don't take him, God forbid, he might be seriously hurt.

LANGFITT: Police then pulled the van driver through the crowd and took him away. They're treating this as an act of terrorism. The attack has left many in the community frightened. Munah Mohammed said one of her relatives suffered a broken back in the attack and is in critical condition.

MUNAH MOHAMMED: No, I'm not going to go to the mosque. I feel scared. I'm really scared.

LANGFITT: Mohammed left Somalia more than 13 years ago to escape civil war. Now she says she doesn't feel safe in London.

MOHAMMED: If I open the news, I hear someone die. Someone is shoot. Why this happen in the United Kingdom? This shouldn't happen - this kind of thing. This is not Africa.

LANGFITT: Police have not provided a specific motive for the attack, but some in the community worry they've been unfairly targeted because of previous attacks carried out by Muslim radicals here.

JAMAL AHMED: Us Muslims, we're not bloodthirsty people. We're not savages. We're not here to disrupt the world.

LANGFITT: Jamal Ahmed is 23 training to be a lawyer.

AHMED: We're human beings just like all of you other people are. We're human beings. And when a terror attack happens anywhere in the world, it hurts us as much as it hurts you all.

MIQDADD VERSI: Many Muslims across the U.K. have been worried about an attack like this happening at some point.

LANGFITT: Miqdadd Versi serves as assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. He says hate crimes have risen following the recent terror attacks here in the United Kingdom.

VERSI: Far-right extremists and these ISIS-like individuals have a similar goal to divide us. They will not succeed, and we will not let them.

LANGFITT: But that will take work. People in Finsbury Park remain scared and many in the wider city on edge. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.