The van attack on civilians near a mosque in north London was deliberate and should be treated as a terrorist attack, the Finsbury Park mosque’s chairman, Mohammed Kozbar, told RT. He urged police to establish the motive of the driver and look for possible accomplices.
Speaking to RT some two hours after a white van rammed into pedestrians outside the Muslim Welfare House, which contains a mosque, Kozbar said, citing eyewitnesses that “at least 10 people were lying on the ground” following what he said was “a deliberate attack.”
“I think there are people dead and there are injured people as well,” he said.
“We have to condemn this incident regardless who is behind it and call it as it is – it is a terrorist attack on innocent people,” Kozbar said, comparing it to the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge.
Kozbar is chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, associated with the Muslim Welfare House, which is 300 metres from the site of the attack.
He argued that while the attackers implicated in these attacks might harbour different kind of extremist views, they share one common aim which is to “divide our community, to spread hatred, division and racism among our community.”
“We should not let them do this, we should stand all together as a community to condemn such attack and make sure it will never happen again,” he said.
Calling on police to promptly establish the motive of the attacker or attackers, Kozbar said the perpetrator “indiscriminately attacked the people,” noting that not all of them might turn out to be Muslims.
“It is a very diverse community over there. There are many Muslims and non-Muslims alike and it’s unfortunate that this happened in this area,” Kozbar said. He noted that locals of different religious backgrounds “get together” well there and there are “no problem whatsoever between communities.”
Reacting to the articles emerging in some British newspapers that point to the mosque’s past links to the extremist preacher Abu Hamza, who was the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque before his arrest in 2004, Kozbar noted that since then the mosque has come a long way and has turned into “an example for other mosques.”
“We are 12 years on now and these tabloid media are still talking about this spirit. This is unbelievable,” he said, urging the journalists to refrain from bias in covering the attack.
At the same time, Kozbar acknowledged that Islamophobia is on the rise in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in the UK.
“We receive calls from people abusing us, threatening us. Some of our community members have been attacked,” he said, adding that while the mosque has a security team in place it did not want police protection during Ramadan, as the armed police presence could have put panic into worshippers.
Police have refrained from publicly assessing the nature of the attack or releasing details about the suspect, despite angry and confused locals demanding that officers share more information with the public.
Counter-terrorism police have reportedly joined the investigation of the incident, The Guardian reported. Police are now seeking to determine whether the incident was a deliberate attack. Meanwhile, a London Metropolitan Police spokesman told CNN that it was “too early” to say if the incident is terror-related.