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Theresa May: Attack on Muslims near mosque ‘sickening’

The British PM has said hatred and evil would never succeed after a van ploughed into worshippers near a London mosque.

FILE: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May said hatred and evil would never succeed after a van ploughed into worshippers near a London mosque in a deliberate attack on Muslims as they left prayers at mosques in north London on Monday.

“On Monday morning, our country woke to news of another terrorist attack on the streets of our capital city: the second this month and every bit as sickening as those which have come before,” she said outside her Downing Street office.

“It was an attack that once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives, this time British Muslims as they left a mosque after prayers.”

She said extra police resources would be deployed to provide reassurance and said Britain had been far too tolerant of all forms of extremism in the past.

“This had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident,” said Neil Basu, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing. “This was an attack on London and all Londoners.”

'RESTRAINT'

Basu thanked those who detained the driver, adding: “Their restraint in the circumstances was commendable.”

The suspected van driver, aged 48, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and will be questioned by counter-terrorism officers.

“I would like to ... 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,” said Toufik Kacimi, the chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House.

Police said the man who was being given first aid at the scene before the vehicle was driven into pedestrians had died but it was not clear whether his death was directly linked.

WATCH: London ramming: One confirmed dead in van attack

POLITICAL TURMOIL

The attack comes at a time of political turmoil in Britain, as Prime Minister May, weakened by the loss of her parliamentary majority in a 8 June election, plunges into divorce talks with the European Union.

She has faced heavy criticism for her response to a fire in a London tower block last Wednesday which killed at least 58 people, and for her record on security after a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants in recent months.

“All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services on the scene,” May said, adding that she would chair an emergency response meeting later on Monday.

WATCH: ‘We are being terrorised’

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said extra police had been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan. The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in whose electoral area the attack took place, said he was “totally shocked”.

The incident comes just over two weeks after three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight.

It also follows a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, northern England, in May which killed 22, while in March, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people.

Police had said hate crimes had risen after the London Bridge attack and they had stepped up their visible presence at places of worship.

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