LONDON: Police on Tuesday questioned a man suspected of deliberately mowing down Muslims in London, as the interior minister said Britain was “bruised but not broken” by a string of terror attacks.
Britain was coming to terms with the aftermath of its fourth bloody assault in three months following Monday’s van attack on worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.
The family of Darren Osborne, the man suspected of deliberately driving into the Muslim group, said he was “troubled” and described his action as “sheer madness”.
Osborne, 47, a father of four from Cardiff in Wales, was arrested after the attack and is being questioned by police on suspicion of attempted murder and terrorism.
Police are treating the incident as a terror attack but believe the suspect acted alone.
The spate of attacks had “bruised but not broken the heart of this great nation”, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been criticised for her response to a deadly fire in London last week, described Monday’s incident as “sickening” and vowed to fight extremism in all its forms.
The attack has raised fears of retaliation against Muslims after three deadly strikes by Islamist extremists in London and the northern city of Manchester.
One man who was already receiving first aid at the time died following Monday’s attack.
Seven people remain in hospital, three in a critical condition.
“I’m sorry that my brother has been that troubled that it has taken him to this level of troubledness,” said the suspect’s sister Nicola Osborne.
His mother Christine, 72, said she screamed when she saw her son in television footage.
“My son is no terrorist — he’s just a man with problems,” The Sun newspaper quoted her as saying.
In a statement on behalf of his family, his nephew Ellis Osborne, 26, said: “We are massively shocked.
His uncle was “not a racist”, he said. “It’s madness. It is obviously sheer madness.”
Suspect saved by imam
Londoners bearing flowers and messages of solidarity gathered late Monday at the scene of the attack, some carrying signs reading “United Against All Terror”.
Another vigil is planned for Tuesday.
The van driver was pinned down by locals before being shielded from retaliatory violence by an imam and detained by police.
London police chief Cressida Dick said the incident was “quite clearly an attack on Muslims” and promised a stepped-up police presence near mosques as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.
Rudd said Muslims needed to feel safe in Britain and the government was working to tackle all forms of hate crime and extremism.
“Indicative figures suggest that over half of those who experience hate because of their religion are Muslim. Any hate crime is unacceptable but this stark figure is something we will not shy away from,” she wrote in The Guardian newspaper.
“We stand with the Muslim community — you are not alone, we share your pain and we will not let you down.”
‘Does not remember anything’
But Rawah-ud-din Arif Khan, the imam of another mosque nearby, conceded: “There is fear among our community.
“There people want to divide us, we have to make sure that we don’t fall into their trap,” he told AFP.
One victim of Monday’s attack has no memory of what happened, according to a nephew who did not wish to be identified.
“He is bleeding out of his ear, but in general his health was stable,” he said after visiting his uncle Hamza Sharif in hospital.
“He has a fracture in his skull — but they still don’t know why the bleeding from his ear is not stopping yet,” the Somali-born man said.
Sharif “does not remember anything” of the attack and kept asking “what was wrong”.