Plenty of witnesses to the truck that rammed into a crowd of pedestrians finishing Ramadan prayers early Monday in London’s Finsbury Park couldn’t help but lash out.
But Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam at the site of the attack, urged his congregants to display peace and civility ― even in the face of unspeakable violence.
A mob gathered around the 47-year-old assailant, identified Monday as Darren Osborne, minutes after the attack, Mahmoud said. People were trying to hurt the suspect, but he managed to intervene.
“By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm,” he told reporters on Monday. “We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle.”
Video footage shows people screaming at the driver while he lay motionless on the ground.
The acts of bravery didn’t stop there. Congregants on the scene who were attending to the injured happened to see a police van driving by, so they flagged it down. Mahmoud begged police to take the attacker to safety.
“We told them the situation, said there’s a man, he’s restrained, he mowed down people with his van and there’s a mob attempting to hurt him, if you don’t take him, God forbid he might be seriously hurt,” Mahmoud said. “So we pushed people away from him until he was safely put into the back of the van.”
He’s a hero responsible for saving the attacker’s life, Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, told Sky News.
“These are the kinds for stories that give us hope,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote about Mahmoud’s actions in a Guardian opinion piece Monday. “They show that our values, of justice and the rule of law, and our determination not to be divided, will always be stronger than the hate and terror of the extremists.”
One person was killed and at least 10 were injured in the incident. Authorities are investigating it as a terrorist attack.
The assailant appeared calm and barely spoke, Mahmoud added.
“I just heard he said, ‘I did my bit,’” he said. “It is a tragic and barbaric terrorist attack.”