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Finsbury Park mosque attack: Suspect Darren Osborne, 47, previously unknown to security services

The Independent logo The Independent 3 days ago Katie Forster, Ben Kentish
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The man suspected of deliberately driving a van into a crowd outside a mosque in north London was unknown to security forces, it has been confirmed, as local communities pay tribute to the one person dead and 10 injured after the crash.

Police are treating the incident, which took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque in Finsbury Park just after midnight on Monday, as a terror attack – the third such atrocity to hit the capital in recent months after vehicles were used to mow down pedestrians in Westminster and on London Bridge.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the driver, named as 47-year-old Darren Osborne from Cardiff, was “not known to the authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism”. He is believed to have acted alone.

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Mr Osborne was originally arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but he is now also facing charges relating to the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism. Police are investigating whether the victim died as a result of the attack or a separate health emergency, as he was already receiving first aid outside the mosque at the time.

Theresa May said the Government will review security at mosques across Britain, vowing that “hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed”. Outside Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the attack on Muslims near their place of worship was “every bit as sickening as those which have come before”.

“Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities, and the police will continue to assess the security needs of Mosques and provide any additional resources needed, especially during this final week before Eid Al-Fitr, a particularly important time for the whole Muslim community,” she said.

“There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia. That is why this Government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology – both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow.”

Ms May met faith leaders at Finsbury Park Mosque the afternoon after the attack, but faced heckles as she left the building. Crowds shouted “Have you got a faster taxi today?” and “how can you be so quick today?”, a criticism of her response to last week’s devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, in which 79 people are presumed dead.

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At around 12.20am, a speeding white van swerved into people gathered outside the Muslim Welfare House mosque on Seven Sisters Road. Eight people were taken to hospital and two were treated at the scene. All the victims were Muslim.

Abdul Rashid, 18, who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, described the driver as “desensitised” and said he “wasn't distressed, not in the slightest”. He told The Independent it appeared the suspect “knew exactly what he was doing”.

“When people were holding him down he was saying 'you can kill me, I've done my job'. He was saying he had come here to kill Muslims,” said Mr Rashid. “He looked blank. You could tell he didn't care. It was 100 per cent deliberate.”

Searches are being carried out at a residential address in Cardiff in condition with the mosque attack, according to the Metropolitan Police. Images of the van used in the attack showed it was rented from Pontyclun Van Hire, around 12 miles west of Cardiff.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the capital would stay “strong” in the difficult period and “not allow these terrorists to succeed.” 

Related: Sadiq Khan says terrorists will not succeed in dividing us (Provided by Sky News)

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“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,” he said.

There has been a reported surge in hate crime against Muslims in Britain following the London attacks carried out by Islamist extremists and a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22 that killed 22 people, almost half of whom were aged under 20. 

The week after the Manchester attack, which was claimed by Isis, verified reports of Islamophobic hate crimes increased more than fivefold, according to the organisation Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hatred in Britain.

In the seven days after the London Bridge attack on 3 June, there was a 240 per cent rise in reported hate crimes, said the charity. Figures from City Hall also show a sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents after three attackers hit pedestrians on the bridge before launching a knife attack on people in bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market.

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An imam reportedly saved the van driver involved in the suspected Finsbury Park attack from being attacked by members of the public in the immediate aftermath of the crash. One witness said the furious crowd might have injured or killed Mr Osborne were it not for the intervention of Mohammed Mahmoud.

An eyewitness who gave his name as Abdul told The Independent Mr Osborne “tried to run away but we brought him down. He would've died because so many people were punching him but the imam came out and said 'No more punching, let's keep him down until the police come'.”

Community groups and charities have condemned the attack, warning against entering a “cycle of tit-for-tat violence” that is the goal of extremists. In a statement, the organisation Hope Not Hate said “we must oppose far-right extremism with the same intensity that we oppose Islamist extremism - a plague on both their houses is our call, as we said back in 2013 after the murder of Lee Rigby.”

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