An imam is being hailed as a hero for his role in urging an angry crowd not to pummel a terror suspect and allow police to arrive and arrest the man who drove a white van at a high speed into pedestrians outside a mosque in the Finsbury Park section of London.
Muslim leader Mohammed Mahmoud stepped into a dangerous situation and made an appeal to witnesses not to attack the 48-year-old suspect after he jumped out of the van and was shouting, “I want to kill all Muslims,” and then, “Kill me, kill me.”
Mahmoud kept yelling at the crowd, “Don’t hit him, hand him over to the police, pin him down.” At that point, more men joined him in protecting the suspect.
Police did arrive and arrested the driver of the van. Scotland Yard has praised the “restraint” of the crowd for protecting the man so he could be taken into custody.
Adil Rana, a 24-year-old witness said: “The van was driving towards us to try and basically hit us at speed, and everyone was shocked, and people were screaming. There were people on the floor.”
He continued: “The driver jumped out and then he was pinned down to the floor and people were punching him and beating him, which was reasonable because of what he’s done. And then the imam of the mosque actually came out and said, ‘Don’t hit him, hand him over to the police, pin him down.'”
Another witness, Abdul Rahman, told the BBC that the suspect clearly was saying that he wanted to “kill all Muslims.”
“When the guy came out from his van, he wanted to escape, run away and he was saying: ‘I want to kill Muslims. I want to kill Muslims,'” Rahman said. “I hit him on his stomach, and then me and the other guys, we held him to the ground until he couldn’t move. We stopped him until the police came.”
A third witness, Hussain Ali, 28, said that the suspect was restrained and protected by the very people the driver of the van was targeting to kill. Ali said the imam urged the people not to hurt him.
“The leader of the mosque said, ‘You do not touch him.’ He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him. All the police and helicopters came after around eight minutes.”