One person is dead and at least eight others are wounded in the London neighborhood of North Islington, where a 48-year-old man plowed his van into a group of Muslim worshippers outside a local mosque and Islamic community center early Monday morning. The attack is being treated as a case of terrorism by London police.
In the chaotic aftermath of the violence, Imam Mohammed Mahmoud reportedly leapt into action, urging the injured and angry worshipers to remain calm and shielding the alleged attacker from the furious crowd until police could detain the man.
Speaking with Sky News, one witness explained that “The leader of the mosque said ‘You do not touch him.’ He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him.”
In another interview with Sky, Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi was more direct in his appraisal of Imam Mahmoud’s actions.
“Our imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, went there and saved him,” Kacimi said. “He saved his life basically.”
In video taken of the scene as the man was being taken away by local police, distraught community members can be heard shouting “why did you do that?” to the alleged attacker.
Speaking with BuzzFeed, witness Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi described the chaotic scene as the alleged attacker was detained by members of the community.
“I held him, he was screaming before that he was saying ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims’.” Alamoudi said.
“He was throwing punches all over then we managed to get him on the floor. Then we managed to get him on the floor, and he was saying: ‘oh kill me, kill me’. We said: ‘we’re not going to kill you, why did you do that?’ and he wouldn’t say anything.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a short statement after the attack, calling it “a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people.”
“We don’t yet know the full details,” Khan continued, “but this was clearly a deliberate attack on innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.”
“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.”