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Witnesses: Three Men Exited Van That Hit Pedestrians; Witness Describes Scene In Finsbury Park; One Dead, At Least Eight Wounded After Van Hit Pedestrians; Locals Restrained Van Driver Before He Was Arrested; Van Ran Over People Leaving Mosque; Police: "It's Too Early To Tell If This Is A Terror Attack." Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired June 18, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been watching CNN's coverage of the breaking news out of London, a van striking a crowd of pedestrians causing a number of casualties.
Our live coverage continues now with Cyril Vanier and Rosemary Church. Thanks for being with us. Have a great night.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. If you are just joining us, we're continuing our breaking news coverage of an incident in North London. Here's what we know at this time: a vehicle hit pedestrians on Seven Sisters Road, that's in the Finsbury Park area not far from Finsbury mosque. Authorities say there are a number of casualties. One person's under arrest, and crucially, a police spokesman says it's too early to tell if this is a terror attack.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: On Twitter, the Muslim Council of Britain says it was told a number of worshippers were hit as they left the Finsbury Park mosque. A section of the road is closed right now. Police are not releasing any other information at this point, but there are obvious concerns after vehicles were used in deadly terror attacks on Westminster and London Bridges.
VANIER: Let's bring in Ian Lee. He's at the scene in London. Ian, you've been talking to people who are there, and people that potentially witnessed the attack. Can you sort of reconstruct what happened?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Cyril, let me show you what the scene looks like right now. You have the police who have cordoned off the area; it's just down this road where this incident took place outside of a mosque. A lot of people still gathering around, as you can see trying to find out for themselves what exactly happened. And this is a mosque in this neighborhood that a lot of people, a lot of families attended, and so people here knew people who are at that mosque for praying the Tarawih prayer, which is the prayer that is done at night during Ramadan.
People wanting to know, what's the status of their friends who could've been at that mosque at the time? From what we're hearing though, Cyril, from witnesses is that, people that were leaving the mosque, gathering outside when a van careened into a crowd of people. One witness said that he saw at least five people on the ground, one person unresponsive after this attack. He's saying that this van sped up into the crowd. It did not, as he said, wasn't trying to avoid this crowd, wasn't trying to break but looked like it was deliberate. That's when locals, the people around, were able to apprehend the driver and hand him over to police.
Right now, the police have yet to call this - say that this is a terrorist attack, or call it anything like that. But they say that you know, they're investigating right now. But the one crucial thing though, Cyril, is that they were able to apprehend the driver of this incident and they'll be able to question him. But right now, a lot of people want answers to know what exactly happened. Another witness we were able to speak with said that after the incident happened, he believes there could have been additional people in the van with this driver. So, that's something that the police will also be looking into to see if there were any other people who were involved in this incident. Cyril.
CHURCH: We have. We are hearing from witnesses. They apparently saw three men exit that van in this incident in London; three men apparently exited that van, they rammed into pedestrians in London's Finsbury Park. Two witnesses have told CNN this Sunday, and those two witnesses left but the third one was the one that was apprehended. The people there at the scene handed him over to police. But at this stage, we understand from these eyewitnesses the two men fled the scene. Have you heard this at all?
LEE: We did hear this from several witnesses, but when we were speaking with them, Rosemary, they were unsure if there were other people in that van. There was some uncertainty when they said that they saw additional people in that van. So, that's something we're going to have to wait for the police to come out with if there were, in fact, other people in this van but the locals were able to apprehend them. We don't know if the driver was trying to run away or if they were able to open the door and drag the driver out. But from one of the witnesses, this definitely seemed like it was deliberate, and they were able then to apprehend him and then hand him over to the police immediately once they arrived on the scene.
And again, from what witnesses have told us, there were several people - five to seven people, we're hearing from witnesses who were on the ground. One person, in particular, was unresponsive after this incident took place. And right now, still a lot of people here wanting to know what happened. The police here, at the scene, has been tight-lipped. We're hearing from the officials from the spokesman, and they're still saying that they're investigating this incident, not calling it any sort of terrorist attack, at least, not yet.
[23:05:33] CHURCH: All right. Ian Lee, standing by there at the scene; it is just after 4:00 in the morning in London. We will come back to you in just a moment.
VANIER: And we're still trying to piece together what exactly happened. We spoke earlier to Hillary Briffa, she was on the street, witnessed the aftermath, and she told CNN's Ana Cabrera what she saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWS ANCHOR AND REPORTER: Did you see the person who may have been involved in this incident? Who may have been driving the vehicle?
HILLARY BRIFFA, WITNESS: No, I've seen the vehicle and I saw a lot of people crowding around at somebody but I couldn't see him myself. There were a lot of people. And indeed, just the person's face once you get too close; you can, obviously, you never know what can happen next. But I did see the van itself, which is a white van that's now-
CABRERA: So, it was a van.
BRIFFA: Outside the station. Yes, a white van.
CABRERA: OK. So, it was a van that you saw. Do you know how many people were injured or have any idea of how many might have been injured?
BRIFFA: I'm not sure. When I was down there, there were at least three people who were - who were injured because they were being suspected as (INAUDIBLE) get - certainly, the police to get emergency services getting through. There were at least three people who were seriously injured, but I think there were actually more but just a number that I can say for sure, there were three.
CABRERA: And what more can you tell me about the crowd that was outside that you were interacting with when you got out there? Where did they come from? You said that there had been some kind of a prayer event that was going on nearby, and people were just exiting that?
BRIFFA: Yes. So, Finsbury Park mosque, which is one of the biggest mosques, there's a very exciting community there and people were there for prayer. One of them that went home after the prayer, until there were a lot of people who I think had come out from prayer, but there are people like myself who live on the street who had come down to see what was happening, to see what's happened to our neighbors. And the crowd was very mixed ages; there are women, children, a lot of young adults and adults. Women crying, lots of people panicking, there was a lot of shouting in Arabic, so I can't tell you what exactly what was being said. But from the people shouting in English, there was a lot of agitation, people wanted to get close and see what was happening, were frustrated they were being pushed back by the cordon and the police were very calm, not rising to any agitation and just sort of trying to get people back far enough that they could put up a cordon.
And at one point, the fight was breaking out between some of the men who didn't want to move back and was resisting the police, so that calmed down very quickly and they did, for now, move back. And in terms of the citizens that I could see from the window, everybody's cooperating with the police and there are just a lot of people standing outside the cordon trying to see what is happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: An eyewitness report there. She's talking with our Ana Cabrera. David Rhode is CNN's Global Affairs Analyst. He joins us now via Skype from New York. Thank you so much for talking with us. The concern at this hour is that it's four hours or so after this incident took place and still there have been no answers to the many questions and this is the aftermath of attacks on the Westminster and London Bridges. Why do you think is it taking this long before authorities can explain to people there what happened?
DAVID RHODE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (via Skype): I think authorities are being very cautious as they have been in past attacks in terms of determining blame. But the danger here is that there'd be a sense among the Muslim community that there is a double standard, that this isn't, you know, being called terrorism when it should be. I don't think we're there yet. I think the police need more time. You know, they are the ones who know who this person is that's under arrest. But it's very important that if this is terrorism, it'd be called terrorism. An attack on anyone based on their religious faith is wrong and totally unacceptable. So, it's important that that be the response if that's what the facts are if this is indeed a terrorist attack targeting Muslims.
VANIER: Yes. And David, if this is indeed what it looks like, as you say, it's also very worrying because it suggests that now there is sectarian violence going on in the U.K. Again, this is a hypothetical if it is, what it looks like.
[23:10:11] RHODE: Yes. Again, it's a hypothetical but, you know, this is exactly what ISIS wants. This is what Al Qaeda tried to do and inspire. They want this sort of view that this is some kind of conflict, a clash of civilizations, and a conflict between Islam and the West or Islam and Christianity. And if this was, you know, carried out by, you know, people who are non-Muslims and they think this is somehow going to intimidate, you know, Islamic radicals or slow down attacks, it's not. It's going to fuel more attacks.
Whoever did this is playing into their hands, and this is why, you know, the rule of law and these basic values that the use of violence to achieve a political goal is terrorism. You know, whoever the attacker is, it's wrong and it's unacceptable, and that's why this broad principle has to be applied here no matter who the victim is.
CHURCH: And David, of course, we know at this hour some four hours after this incident took place that one man was arrested at the scene. According to some witness reports, we understand two other men fled the scene. We haven't had confirmation from authorities of that just yet. But just going back to the man who was taken into custody, what can be achieved now? What questions will they be asking him? And how long do you think it would take authorities to eventually realize that Britain will be waking up in a couple hours from now and people will be wanting some answers to these questions?
RHODE: You know, sadly, probably following the same procedures they did when there was this attack on a vehicle, you know, recently the last two attacks in London. Meaning, they are raiding and searching this individual's apartment, they aren't seeing, you know, what kind of statements they're making but as motivations. And if there were two accomplices, they need to find those accomplices and prevent them from potentially carrying out attacks. So, that could explain why they haven't said much about this case. But they could be trying to, you know, find these two other people and they don't want to, you know, give any tips about how they might track them down.
VANIER: Look, David, if we look at the area. Finsbury Park, it doesn't look anything like the last three targets: three attacks in three months in the U.K. There've been symbols of the state. If you look at the Westminster attack, there've been tourists targets, if you look at the London Bridge attack and there been a concert in Manchester. This is totally different.
RHODE: It is. And that's what's so worrying. I mean, the mosque has changed. It was seen as a source of radicalism in the years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States but it's overseen by a new group of Muslim leaders. It is not seen as a source of extremism as it was in the past. So, you know, it is worrying, to someone who doesn't understand the mosque, and frankly, doesn't understand Islam might carry out this attack seeing it as a source of extremism but you know, they would be wrong. And again, this is - whatever they're doing and if it was motivated - if it was an effort to attack Muslims, it should be absolutely condemned.
CHURCH: And David, we have to emphasize again, we do not know the situation. We do not know what - some of the details are here. All we know at this hour is that a van plowed into some pedestrians who were coming out of a mosque there in Finsbury Park. So, talk to us now about what can be done because we are seeing so many incidents now where vehicles are being used, these soft targets, attacking people. What authorities do if anything?
RHODE: I think they should wait. I think the fact that they're waiting to make a determination, in this case, is a good thing. There was actually an incident in Times Square, here in New York, several weeks where a vehicle careened into pedestrians. It turned out that the driver, you know, was drunk and that there was no sort of political motivation to the attack. I'm not sure that's the case in this case, given that it happened so close to this mosque. But again, I think to apply an even hand, going slowly, you know, not declaring this, you know, declaring it terrorism prematurely. And then, if it is terrorism, you know, condemning it, and very aggressively tracking down the culprits no matter the victim is the best thing. Officials can do it. And again, I want to emphasize well, we don't know yet. I do not want to sound alarms; I don't know who did this, so we should be cautious as well in the news media.
VANIER: David Rhone, CNN's Global Affairs Analyst, thank you very much. And U.K. government officials are reacting to the news with online statements. London's Mayor, Sadiq Khan, tweeted: "Emergency services are on the scene and investigating a major incident at Finsbury Park. Follow Met Police U.K. and London ambulance for details."
[23:15:14] CHURCH: And Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbin, wrote: "I'm totally shocked at the incident at Finsbury Park tonight." Phil Black, who joins us now. So, Phil, what more have you learned about this incident that took place about four hours ago now?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, as you've been talking about, we are still waiting from the authorities to give some sense of what they think happened here tonight, but also why they think it happened? Crucially, what was the motivation? That's what all the people gathered here just near this police line. We'll move the camera here and show it to you; this is where people have been standing for the last few hours. Some of these are people who are up in the mosque at the time, in the neighborhood, where these people who say that actually witnessed the car strike to people, witnessed the detention of the man that people are saying was the driver of the vehicle. These are people who feel intimately involved; these are people who feel and are worried that their community has been specifically targeted and attacked tonight.
Finsbury Park mosque has, over the years, particularly since it's come under new management, management that has been very focused on restoring the mosque as a healthy functioning member of the local community. They've talked about receiving a threat, hate mail, are being targeted by - in protest by anti-Islam and far-right nationalist groups, and so forth over the years. They've had these concerns. Tonight, these people here, many of these people who feel that - who are members of this community, they are worried that this is perhaps what has happened here-that they have been targeted specifically. So, they're a little anxious; they're a little agitated.
Some people here that we've been talking to though, are, however, just very, very sad. They've been talking about, once again, in London, innocent people being harmed on its street. And that's something that will bother everyone in London as they wake up to this news this morning. Especially, if this does prove to be some form of reprisal attack against the Muslim community. And as we've been stressing, we don't know that for certain because the authorities haven't confirmed that. But if it does shape out to be something like that, then that will be enormously concerning to the people of London, to the authorities here, who for some months now, despite all the recent attacks that have taken place: two in London and one in Manchester.
Despite that violence, people here have been stressing that this is a unified tolerant city, and indeed the country. And one would not change its behavior or its attitude towards a member of sections of that community just because of this violence. But it does show, and we've seen and hearing tonight, it reads all further evidence of the tension and the strain that London has been placed under in recent months.
VANIER: Phil, I'd also like to - like you to address the information that's coming into us here at CNN, which is that eyewitnesses have also told CNN: there were there people in the van; two of whom, fled. So, one was arrested. According to the eyewitness accounts that we got, that person was brought and taken to the police - handed to the police, two others fled. I just want to know whether that squares with what you're hearing. BLACK: So, what we've heard are reports similar to that. So, keep in
mind, we've got the CNN colleagues, in various locations around this area tonight, talking to witnesses. What we all - the constant seems to be that they believe there was more than one person in the van, yes. But we've heard different accounts, could be two, could be three, but consistently, what we're hearing now from people who say they witness this unfold is that, yes, there was more than one person in the van but they seem to have fled.
What we understand though is that the one person is believed to be the driver, that's the person that a crowd of bystanders was able to successfully detain, and hold on to until police arrived. The authorities had not confirmed this yet. They've only confirmed that they do hold one person in custody; they have not confirmed that they believed more than one person may have been involved. They have not said that they are looking for more people, but just to reiterate what we are hearing from eyewitness both here and at other locations close to where this took place, they do believe that there was more than one person in the van at the time that it plowed through these people. Cyril.
CHURCH: Yes. That's right, Phil. London's Metropolitan Police, they're refusing to say if they were, in fact, seeking any other suspects, but that would be understandable at this point. They're not revealing much at all, but what are eyewitnesses telling you there at the scene?
BLACK: So, some people who say they saw it unfold. They talk about seeing the van actually run through these people and knock them down and then talking about the effort bystanders and then apprehend the person who is behind the wheel. That's what a small number of people that we've spoken to tonight. The ones that claim they actually saw all of these events unfold. Of course, the story is being handed along from person to person to person. So, there are lots of second- hand accounts here tonight as well as, also why we need to be cautious in the information that we are sharing and discussing on air.
We're talking about eyewitness accounts because we have multiple eyewitness accounts now, that's why we're getting the line that there may have been more than one person in the vehicle at the time. In addition to just simply what actually took place here, people here are talking about what it means, what it means to them, what it means for their community, and what it for their city more broadly. And that's where I guess there is the emotional response. There is anger, certainly. But also just tremendous sadness that they feel their community may have been targeted directly and purposefully in this way.
[23:20:56] CHURCH: All right. Our Phil Black there at the scene, emphasizing we are still waiting for authorities to indicate why this happened, and indeed, what the motivation was behind it. Let's just bring those viewers, who perhaps, have just joined us up to date on what we're covering here. This breaking news: a van has hit pedestrians in North London and there have been a number of casualties. Now, we don't know exactly how many all the severity of the casualties, and police say it's too early to know if this is a terrorist act. We have also heard from two witnesses who say, three men got out of the van: one of them was arrested and other two fled the scene. Police say they believe the person arrested was the driver of the van. We don't know - the police are not confirming that two people fled the scene at this hour.
VANIER: Police are saying that they were called just after midnight local time. This happened near the Finsbury Park mosque. But we have been informed that the worshippers were directly targeted. The Muslim Council of Britain said on Twitter: "We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park mosque, our prayers are with the victims."
CHURCH: Now, earlier, we heard from a resident of Finsbury Park in North London. Cynthia Vanzella provided us with one of the earliest photos we saw of this scene, and it shows, as you see there, an ambulance and a crowd of people.
VANIER: She wrote this on Twitter: "Outside my window in Finsbury Park, loads of screaming, police have just arrived a few minutes ago." She described to our Ana Cabrera what she saw and what she heard.
CABRERA: I want to bring in Cynthia Vanzella. She is one of the people who took these pictures that we're looking at on our screen right now, the one in particular that seems to be close. Cynthia, talk to me about what you have witnessed.
CYNTHIA VANZELLA, WITNESS: Hi! Hello, Ana, I was in bed really and heard a lot of people shouting, so I went by the window to see what was going on and I saw loads, loads of people gathering in this corner right in front of my window across the road from my apartment. And they are very nervous, shouting very loud trying desperately to make some time to a police car that was a little bit further down just passing the road. There was a little bit of traffic at the time, and in a matter of like the second the police car arrived and many other police cars arrived just after that. I didn't see exactly what happened. I just saw from this moment when everybody was already screaming, and shouting, and very, very nervous.
CABRERA: Do you know where all these people came from? Were people just hanging out in the street? Was there an event going on?
VANZELLA: No, what happened from here is that this community in North London is a very mixed community. It has people from many different countries and different cultures, and we all live perfectly fine. I never saw anything nowhere close to where this happened at all. We have a church in one road, the evangelic church in another corner, and a mosque across the road as well, and everybody just live fine. We never had any problem at all in here. But what happened is that, usually, some of this Muslim, when they see there's a prayer mosque they gather in this little corner to talk for a bit.
And I'm guessing, I'm not sure but I'm guessing, because it's Ramadan, there is maybe more of them into a little bit later maybe, because it was so hot today as well. So, I'm guessing they were the victims because they were desperate, I saw some of them crying, screaming, trying to get police and ambulance around. So, I'm guessing that if someone were nowhere, people in the corner, maybe they were there.
CABRERA: So, the people that you saw crying and trying to get police attention, they appeared to be Muslim because they were wearing Muslim garb or how could you tell?
[23:20:10] VANZELLA: Yes. Yes, they're all wearing the white Muslim - I don't know the name of that vest, but yes.
CABRERA: OK. Go.
VANZELLA: There were some kinds of people in there, but mostly them. And because I'm so used to see them there every day, I just assumed that maybe there's some Muslims between the victims I saw on the floor.
CABRERA: We are hearing from police, based on what they've put out, the information we have that there are multiple casualties or a number of casualties-that's actually the word they used. From your vantage point, did you see how many people may have been injured?
VANZELLA: I followed the people who are injured, they were helping on the pavement, and they were trying to help them to get away from the scene. But I saw at least two on the floor that I couldn't recognize properly because there's a police van part of my view from our window, but I saw at least two of them on the floor. One of them, I think, maybe was really, really badly hurt because I a saw the police officer doing cardiac massage trying to resuscitate them. So, I'm guessing that at least one of them was really, really badly hurt. I'm not sure about the other, but they were working. The paramedics were working on them on the floor for quite some time and left them in an ambulance, they probably went to the hospital.
CHURCH: One of the first eyewitness reports coming into CNN after that incident some four and a half hours ago now. Our Phil Black joins us again. Phil, you had an opportunity to talk to more eyewitnesses, what are they telling you?
BLACK: Well, Rosemary, I'm joined now by a man who witnessed some of the events that we've talking about tonight: Ratib al-Suleiman. Hello, sir.
RATIB Al-SULEIMAN, WITNESS: Hello, good afternoon.
BLACK: You were in the area, I understand, and when you heard something happens, you ran towards the scene. Please describe what you saw.
AL-SULEIMAN: Yes. I was like, sitting with my friend it's just a few minutes away from there; we're sitting in the coffee shop. And one of our friends, he has his mobile and he shows us what's going on, he said, look, there's an incident in front of the mosque. There's some van crashing into people. It's a big van crashing the people in the mosque. So, we just run straight away, and I see lots of - I see police, ambulance, and people laying the floor, and the van as well.
BLACK: How many people had - did you see who was hurt by this?
AL-SULEIMAN: About eight to ten people, I think, the ambulance they take and I've seen two people as well running away from the van.
BLACK: You saw two people running from the area?
AL-SULEIMAN: From the van, from the van. There were three people in the van: one has been arrest and two people ran away.
BLACK: Did you see the man who was being held and detained by people?
AL-SULEIMAN: Yes, I did. Yes.
BLACK: And do you know was he detained just by people who saw this unfold? It wasn't by a police, is that right, by bystanders?
AL-SULEIMAN: That's right. Yes, that's right.
BLACK: It must have been a terrible thing to see as in here in your community, you're your mosque, where you pray.
AL-SULEIMAN: Yes, it's a very sad because yesterday we were praying for unity because what's happened in the Grenfell Tower is a very sad thing. People there lost their lives. And there are people like - you know, it's a sad thing what's happening. And the leader of the council is (INAUDIBLE), the leader of the mosque, and we were - lots of people in the mosque praying for unity, praying for the people which lost in the Grenfell Tower and praying for Joel Cox, that one she's killed and he killed. So, we're looking for peace, we're looking for unity. We don't want people to divide us. This is our message to everybody.
BLACK: Are you worried that your community has been deliberately targeted here tonight?
AL-SULEIMAN: I can't say they are targeted, the community. I can say that this attack is like by a criminal. It's an attack on people. It's like, it doesn't matter who you are, a Muslim or Christian. These are criminal people. They do these things to anybody. These people have probably mental problem or drugs or whatever because nobody like in their right mind to come and jump or killing people. Because we see this one before like a few weeks ago, one month ago in London, the terror attack, and everybody like scared, worried about it and now we see it repeated again. And we don't know yet. We can't say who's done it, why it's being done, what is the things behind. Nobody knows yet the truth, you know.
[23:30:12] BLACK: This is true, we don't know. And we just -- we can't stress that enough. The police have not said why this has happened tonight, what the motivation was, who did this? But I've been speaking to people here tonight that actually have been and they are - they are sad and angry that this has happened to them outside their mosque. I imagine you could understand why that's the case. AL-SULEIMAN: Yes, I think this area - much of this area is full of
you can say is a Muslim majority in this area, like lots of people here, like, from Algeria, from Tunisia, from Morocco, from the Arab country and lots of people as well like from Somalia. It's a very strong Muslim community, this area. And what's happening today, I think, is the people must be extremely, extremely sad, and the people here are very concerned, like they say, this is a terror attack. It's not actually accident or incident. And the people, they want to see the media reports -- the truth because now, I think the trust is go away because people, they don't trust the media, especially like people they say when something happening to the Muslim people, the media is not reporting but if another things happen to different people, the media will be there straight away. So, this is like can affect the relationship between the community, between the Muslim community, the other minority, the Black community, the other minority community. This can affect them, you know, and everywhere.
BLACK: We have to make sure that doesn't happen, right?
AL-SULEIMAN: Yes, hopefully, because we pray, like, for unity and we pray for people, because these people, they try to separate the community; they try to make a division; make, you know, hate us. And I don't think they will succeed because we are pure, we feel like, yes, this is might happen but we still looking for peace, looking for unity, looking for -- because we are all looking for unity, looking for peace, looking - because all regions, Islam, Christian, or either Jews religion, all religion is like looking for peace, nobody looking for trouble or crime.
BLACK: (INAUDIBLE) thank you very much for sharing all of that with us tonight, we're very grateful.
AL-SULEIMAN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for -
BLACK: Good night. Good luck to you and your community. Thank you. So, you heard the concerns there, Rosemary, Cyril, what people are talking about here, we don't know what happened and why, specifically, yet. The authorities haven't confirmed that, but the concern and the fear is that this was deliberate, this was targeted violence, this was meant to deliberately hurt and perhaps kill people who were worshipping in the mosque or in this area tonight1. And that's a profound concern because that only serves potentially to sow further divisions and hatreds following all the other violence that this city has seen with other recent terror attacks in recent months. Cyril, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Many thanks to our Phil Black there at the scene talking to another eyewitness. And of course, we are still waiting to hear from authorities to shed some light on what happened here, why and what the motivation was, and until that happens, the anxiety will continue to grow.
VANIER: Let's bring in CNN law enforcement contributor, Steve Moore, now. Steve, first of all, it's taken - it's more than four hours after the attack, and we've essentially got almost no information from the police in London. What does that tell you?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it tells me that it's likely viewed by them as a potential terrorist incident. The police, especially the Metropolitan Police will want to take any incident that is demonstrably not terrorism, and immediately say so as soon as they can, to calm the public fears. The fact that they haven't said that in four hours leads me to a hard conclusion.
CHURCH: The problem is, of course, Steve, that the more time that passes, the more anxious people are getting, particularly at the scene there, and of course, for the Muslim community, I mean, they are feeling that they were targeted here. We don't know at this hour what the situation was but this is the problem that authorities in Britain are facing right now.
MOORE: Well, I want to point out that at the bombing in Manchester, it took the police hours, I believe, before they said it was terrorism, before they were certain it was terrorism. This is not specifically being delayed because they don't want to have to say it is. It's being delayed for the same reason any other announcement is delayed.
[23:35:03] They want to be certain and they want to be able before the - before the time is out, they want to be able to go and start investigating. If they got one person, they want to be able to wrap up any others before they start making announcements on - in the media, which could make it harder for them to apprehend certain people.
VANIER: Steve, what is law enforcement doing right now at this hour?
MOORE: Well, Cyril, they got one person here. They are going to determine whether there were more. I know there have been reports of two to three people, and that may be completely accurate. But I can tell you that in cases like these that I've worked, it's almost every time, multiple people are reported, whether there's one or three. So they are trying to determine who is involved in this, what their circle of friends and associates were, who the others were that were involved and whether this was - what the motivation was, and whether there are others out there, whether this is one potential attack, and again, I'm speaking hypothetically, or whether there are - there are others that might be in progress.
CHURCH: And Steve, we're hearing a number of eyewitness reports suggesting that there were three men in that van, one, of course, we know, we've just been discussing that was taken into custody. The other two, apparently, according to these eyewitness reports, fled the scene. Police are saying - or they're refusing to confirm either way on that, but that would be understandable, of course, at this hour, wouldn't it, as they proceed with an investigation?
MOORE: Yes. I mean, if I - I've run investigations of mass shooting, mass attacks, and the one thing I wouldn't do is make premature announcements to the media, which might negatively impact my ability to arrest or locate people who would otherwise flee. So, this is absolutely normal, this is what I would be expecting them to do, and I would also suspect that if this - or expect that if this is an intentional act against the Muslim community, that it would be deemed an act of terror. It might not be an international terror attack, it might be a domestic U.K. attack, where the attempt to influence or coerce a group of people, started and ended within the confines of the U.K.
VANIER: Steve, how do you check if the people who did this were acting with support or with a network, especially in light of the information we're getting from eyewitnesses that there were two more people in the van who fled?
MOORE: Well, this could be, again, like the ISIS attacks which are no - which are really no different, it's a bunch of people who are angry and want to hurt innocent people. This could be something like that where it was a small group or cell who decided that they wanted to act and there may not be any larger group. However, you are going to look at the person you have in custody and the police do monitor groups whether they're extreme left-wing or extreme right-wing, and they will have information on this person if they're affiliated with any racist group, and they will be able to determine then whether they're potentially, at least, looking at a larger operation.
CHURCH: CNN Law Enforcement Contributor, Steve Moore, talking to us there. Many thanks to you, Steve. No doubt we will come back to you in the minutes and hours ahead. Many thanks.
VANIER: Now, let's recap the breaking news that we're following out of London this hour. Authorities say a vehicle has hit pedestrians and there are "a number of casualties." That's pretty much the only qualification that authorities are giving us officially at this hour. Police say they were called to an incident on Seven Sisters Road right after midnight, local time, that's in Northern London.
CHURCH: Now, the incident took place in neighborhood near a large mosque. The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted that has been informed that a van ran over people as they were leaving that mosque, witnesses tell CNN three men apparently got out of that van and one of them was arrested, and the two others fled. Now, a Metropolitan Police spokesman tell CNN it's too early to say if the collision is a terror incident. And now, Phil Black joins us now. Phil, you've had an opportunity to talk to more people and what have they been telling you now at this hour?
BLACK: Rosemary, as we've been talking about one of the big concerns here among members of this community is that they were targeted deliberately, that this wasn't an accident, that this is either one or more people who have deliberately gone out of their way to purposefully hurt members of this community here tonight. And, of course, there will be real consequences for that, for this community, for the Muslim community more broadly and across London, as well, to give you a sense of that and to talk about that a little more, I'm joined now by Abdul Mir who is an elected councillor in an area in East London, so not north London, but you've come out here tonight.
[23:40:12] ABDUL MIR, EAST LONDON COUNCILLOR: You know, definitely, because this has an implication on the Muslim community in London and the U.K. as well. People are going to wake up today and they're going to realize what's happened. Most people are already awake after all the messages that people have received on social media and that, yes? And people are going to be very scared, very petrified because people that have just gone to the mosque, this is on the month of Ramadan, and they're coming back home, and someone gets in the vehicle, and then they run people down. We've already heard there's a fatality and that fatality may increase as well. So, this is actually sending a shockwave within the Muslim community in the U.K., and obviously, with the wider society as well because people are going to wake up now. We've had disaster after disasters and we've got another copycat type of an attack.
Now, we as a Muslim community, we feel we're being terrorized. This particular action, from what we discovered, from the information that we've got, is a similar kind of any form of an attack that's taking place that we call terrorism. The only problem we are concerned about now, the word -- definition of terrorism does not apply here. And what we're seeing as the Muslim community and we're talking to other people, we're saying that that definition needs to change because otherwise, it is not fair. People are very angry. A lot of people on social media are saying, look, this is a terrorist attack on the Muslim community. And that's how it is.
BLACK: I think we're waiting for confirmation from the police to -- for them to determine precisely who these people are or what they were motivating, but there's no doubt that if they were motivated by their own ideology, their own religious beliefs, their own politics, whatever else in that, fits the definition of terrorism as any other attack does. I have to stress, though, that we're not saying that for certain because the police haven't told us - police haven't told us just yet.
MIR: That's what the public is saying and that's what the - that's the discussion on Facebook. We're having a lot of discussion on Facebook, but we as committee leaders are trying to explain to people that look, you know, this is a time that we've got to be sensible, and this is what - this is what extremists want, they want to divide our community, they want to make tension within the community and (INAUDIBLE) and what they've done on the religious day, on the religious month, people coming back from their prayers, OK?
And they've actually terrorized the people now, yes, because now, a lot of Muslim people, when they go to the mosque, they're going to feel very, very scared. Now, we as a community, as a society, we're going to look at how we safeguard these institutions and all faith institutions as well, you know? And we've got to stop thinking about how we safeguard some of our mosques. So, there's a lot of security implication here. Now, we as a society now, we're going to really have to really think about.
BLACK: We're going to think about if this proves to be the worst-case scenario and it's a deliberate attack as we've discussed, it may be and I know people here fear very strongly.
MIR: Just to let you know, it's a deliberate attack. There is no question about that, yes? From the evidence and from the eyewitnesses, you know, for a vehicle to come off the road, onto a pavement and knock people down, that's a clear intention. What we're waiting for now is the factual information to confirm the media and everyone that it's actually an attack, yes?
BLACK: Correct. We are reporting what witnesses are telling us today, and they're telling this is exactly as you have been telling us. But if this does prove to be the worst-case scenario, then there are consequences for the rest of London, too, out there, because following the attack at Westminster, the attack at London Bridge, the attack in Manchester, people in London are going to be going out of their way to say and to insist that we are united, that we will not be divided, that we are tolerant, that members of the - we do not blame members of the Muslim community for this.
MIR: Well, we're very tolerant. And the culprit was actually apprehended by Muslims, worshipers themselves. They handed him to the police. They did not beat him up, they did not attack him in any form, but they apprehended him so that the police can deal with their job. And the Muslim community will work closely with everyone else, all of the community, we've been doing that. There has not been a problem with the Muslim community not working with nation's society, yes? But now what we're facing is that someone is actually using a similar kind of a copycat kind of a behavior, the way other extremism terrorists have been done so, and are now applying to the Muslim community at a time of worship.
Now, this sends a symbolic message, yes? The question is, is this going to happen more, is it going to become more regular and more frequent? If that is the case, then the society and our politicians better think about safeguarding the community and the citizen in this society now.
BLACK: Can you tell me about the mood among Muslim communities this year, particularly following the other recent terror attacks? Have there been - has there been greater hate?\
MIR: The increase of hate, the increase attacks, Islamophobic, attacks on people, on females, on Muslim females has actually increased, all the research is indicating that, yes? So, every time there is an attack, we have a backlash on the Muslim community. There are innocent people who are being abused, you know -- you know, even my daughter when she was on the tube, she was harassed. So, we have to live with all of this. And now, that it's not just harassment and physical, people are using terrorist forms of means in order to now put fear into the Muslim community, maybe it's a symbolic message saying, look, you know, something has happened in -- on London Bridge. We can do the same. The question is what our government is going to do about this?
BLACK: And we, as Londoners, what do we do about this?
[23:44:53] MIR: We're going to stay united, we're not allow any forms of extremists to actually divide us. You know, we're getting support from across - people are going to wake up tomorrow. You know, the church is going to wake up - the communities from different backgrounds. And going to - and they're going to be in shock to hear worshippers in front of a mosque have been attacked in the same way people attacked on London Bridge, and I think we're uniting on this. And this is a good thing about the communities that we have, we're a strong community. Yes, we're not going to allow these kind of attacks to divide us but it will strengthen us. We will work together and we want to bring change where we can bring change so we can safeguard the whole of our society.
BLACK: Abdul, thank you very much. Thank you for those thoughts. So, there you go. I mean, I think very powerfully put, the sense of fear and anger that this potential attack has spread through this community not just here in Finsbury Park but across London as well. This is the news that people in London will be waking up to very shortly if they're not already. And it's going to worry a lot of people because there's been a big effort by a lot of people in this city in recent months to insist and to prove and to show that this is a united city despite the violent acts of a very small number of people here. Back to you.
CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Phil Black who's there at the scene. He's been talking to many eyewitnesses there, and we're still to hear from authorities about what exactly happened here, why it happened, what the motivation was.
VANIER: Let's bring in Ian Lee who's also at the scene in London. Ian, there's something that we haven't talked about yet, which is the way the crowd reacted when the van ran into the pedestrians. They seem to react with remarkable composure. All the eyewitness accounts are saying that they grabbed the man, one of the drivers, or at least one of the people who's in the van and took him to police.
LEE: That's right, and that's something we heard that he struggled to try to get away. We have a witness here, Sheikh Ali, who was there and just tell me about that. Tell me, what did you see and what did you hear?
SHEIKH ALI, WITNESS: The first what happened, when our brother we were finish the prayer, we come out the mosque, one of our brother collapsed there, the old man with two stick, so we went to help him. I'm going to help him, the guy. So I know him long time. We pray together at our mosque. So we know they always come to our mosque. So I know him where he live and I know the guy. So he collapsed there. So I want to help him but I don't know (INAUDIBLE) but anyway, he collapsed. So, some reason is not well, anyway. So I'm going his house. So I give - when the people come, just run to him. So, you know, I say please, give me some -he wanted some air. Give me (INAUDIBLE) please move away. So they move away. They gave him (INAUDIBLE) so I said I'm going to his family house, unlock the door.
So we go there, one of our brother and me, we go there, unlocked the door, and I said, "Your daddy collapsed." So they come out, two boys and one girl. We walked together. When we come (INAUDIBLE) a little bit far - a little bit (INAUDIBLE) and we see - and saw the van go inside (INAUDIBLE) And we heard the noisy scream to people, shout and cry. And sort of when I come, I see the guy he come out to the van. He want to run away. But two brothers, two younger brothers attacking with me to catch him, the guy. He catch him, he hold him, and (INAUDIBLE) the police hold him, this guy. So I went to go back to the people injured to help him. Someone said, call the police. Another Asia woman said -- one of the family, she's there. She call the police and I call ambulance.
LEE: How many people did you see on the ground and injured?
ALI: Seven. One passed away now. God bless him. The old man collapsed before, he passed away now. I hear now he (INAUDIBLE) he really passed away and other two woman and another four guys.
LEE: Did you see anyone else in the van? There have been reports that there are maybe more people in the van?
ALI: No, no, absolutely not, only one person.
LEE: You only saw one person?
ALI: Yes, I open the van, because one of the brothers under the vehicle. So someone called me and said, oh, you're one of the brothers someone is under the vehicle. So I'm coming out, so I want to try the van is open and already van is - because it hit the one of the wheel hit him. So I call the other people and say please, come here, one of our brothers inside there. I call (INAUDIBLE) so people at the local say we go. So they come and push the van and we take off the guy and we put it there.
LEE: Someone was trapped under the van.
ALI: Yes, already you want to kill all of them, man, yes. Because people just (INAUDIBLE) and he find the people and anyone who go inside. He tried to kill people, you know?
LEE: Well, you don't think that this was an accident?
ALI: No, no, absolutely not. Because where we are and where he go inside there and kill the people is different, absolutely.
LEE: What does this mean for the community? This was Ramadan, people were praying.
[23:49:48] ALI: Many people had been (INAUDIBLE) because we know each other, the area. We long -- we stay a long time. This guy, we help him because I know the long time, we pray together in our mosque. So I know him, and one of the call of prayer out in the mosque. So I want to call the people to come to prayer all the time. So I know him, the guy who collapsed. So we want to help him. And this guy, he come and he killed (INAUDIBLE) I don't know. The same thing like what happened in Westminster Bridge and what happened in London Bridge. People, they did something they want to be discovered.
LEE: For your mosque, what do you tell the people now? I mean, as a leader in the mosque, how do you - how do you tell --
ALI: -- but we tell the people who come to take it patient, we waiting for the police (INAUDIBLE) what they (INAUDIBLE)
LEE: How does the community move forward from this? How do you --
ALI: We tell the people you have to, like for example, a woman, because they are Muslim, they have (INAUDIBLE) like me, I have (INAUDIBLE) we tell you, like, be careful when you walk.
LEE: You warned to be careful now.
ALI: Be careful. The way we going, you have to - you can't go alone. You have to go for someone or someone because we are scared now. We never know that.
LEE: What are you scared about? What do you --
ALI: Because we have trouble before, the mosque there. So people come and attack. And sometimes English League they call it. Now, the (INAUDIBLE) sometimes they come here and with the police (INAUDIBLE) push it out because we have (INAUDIBLE) mosque here. So what time they come here (INAUDIBLE)
LEE: Do you think the police is doing enough to protect your community?
ALI: No, because they come late today. Even after the -- almost half an hour, we there, or 40 minutes that they come, the police. We scream there. We waited for the police. We waited the ambulance. So they come late all of them. They don't come on time. (INAUDIBLE) tell it to him, how long (INAUDIBLE) that's why I'm scared. (INAUDIBLE) van come they (INAUDIBLE) they don't know what they do, I'm afraid, because they don't know where they started. So I went to help. I said, look, this guy that want to kill people, I hold already with two other boys and said just take him, this guy.
LEE: Last question, what do you want the police to do then? What would you like to see the mayor do? What would you like to see the Prime Minister do?
ALI: Anyway, no one can do nothing. If someone evil, you become evil. We ask for God to save us, all of them. They're all the same British people, whether Muslim or not Muslim. So please do whatever you can. But you can't hold (INAUDIBLE) if you - I want to kill myself, no one can hold him anyway. So this guy, he tried to kill the people. So no one can hold him. It's not important for the police. It's not our fault. This guy, evil person, to kill the Muslim people there. So I think, it's like what happened in the other area, we talk on the news, talk on the news, listen to everyone, so maybe (INAUDIBLE) say that sometimes people kill them. But God bless him. Only one person died. But we have a lot of injured.
LEE: Thank you, Sheikh Ali. Thank you. Thank you. So this is the community, also, that really that's just trying to figure out what happened. I think the two big questions that they're trying to figure out right now, is really, what were the motives behind this incident? What was going through this person's head? Fortunately, they have the man who was driving this van, so they'll be able to question him. Also, we didn't - Sheikh Ali said that he didn't see any other people, but we've heard from other eyewitness that said that there could have been other people there, so that is something for the police, although the police aren't commenting if there were more people involved. We'll have to wait for more information to come out.
VANIER: All right. Ian Lee. CNN's Ian Lee reporting from London there at the scene of the incident.
CHURCH: And Ismail Jilani (INAUDIBLE) the area where the van hit these pedestrian. He joins us on the phone now. So it's worth pointing out you were not an eyewitness to this, but what are people in the area saying to you about what happened and how they're feeling at this hour, it is nearly 5:00 in the morning there in London?
ISMAIL JILANI, EYEWITNESS: I think it's really important to highlight when the incident actually took place and I think there's also fault from the mainstream media in terms of how it was being reported. It's been - you said that it's 20 minutes past midnight, that has value, because the night prayers within both mosques in that area and exactly that time, so (INAUDIBLE) of Muslims and the thousands will be leaving the mosques. So it comes at a very intentional attack against the Muslim community.
CHURCH: And that is critical, isn't it, the time that this took place, what more is being said there about what exactly happened, how this unfolded because, of course, we are still waiting to hear from authorities about the motivation behind these, perhaps, three men that were in the vehicle. But we do know one, at least, is in custody and answers will come soon, perhaps.
JILANI: I mean, what we do know so far is in terms of the time that the event took place, the fact that it took place in very, very close proximity to the mosque. The fact that the victims were from Muslim background, and from eyewitness testimony, the guilty or the -- I'd like to say the terrorist. I overheard the fact they're waiting to confirm this with the police. Whatever you're calling him right now. He had statements certainly to kill the Muslims and so on and so forth. And so, it's worrying to say the very least. And I think it's really important that whatever information is given now, the mainstream media just portrayed as it is. So it's not the case that a van attacks pedestrians. It's somebody who has full of hate, attacks Muslims straight after the night prayers.
[23:55:20] VANIER: And Ismail, I want to bring our viewers information that's just coming into us here at CNN that the London Police has now confirmed that one person has been pronounced dead. So we know at least, one person was killed in this incident. And this squares with, in fact, what the eyewitness, one eyewitness, Sheikh Ali, his name was, was just saying to CNN's Ian Lee, moments ago. So, certainly, all of the bits of information that are coming back to us and that we're collating from the witness accounts, so far, are proving to be - proving to be accurate.
JILANI: Yes. I'm not surprised. I'm just very interested to see how things play out. I know it's -- I think put across, is very cautious from the authorities right now, in terms of what they should or shouldn't say the entire incident. And of course, from eyewitness testimonies and people living in the community, the words, being a terrorist attack, you know, coming left, right and center. And personally, I'll be very surprised if the local authorities do call it that, even though, by the way, things seem at the moment, it matches almost step by step the exact attack that happened in London Bridge only a few weeks ago.
CHURCH: And Ismail, why do you say that?
JILANI: It fits the exact same boxes. You know, it's done out of hate to marginalize and to put fear into the hearts of a particular community. The community as it is right now is already fearful, on the back of the London Bridge attacks. You know, my uncle will joke around saying to, you know, the women within our family carry second head scarves just in case somebody pulls yours off. He said that in jest, but these are genuine fears. The people are afraid to stand near the train platforms because they are genuinely scared that people will push them over, simply because they're Muslims. And something like this can really fits into those -- and it plays into that narrative. And we do hope and expect that the authorities both nationally and internationally call it out for what it is.
CHURCH: Ismail Jilani, thank you so much for talking with us. We do appreciate that.
VANIER: Let's go back to Phil Black who's been covering this for us for the last couple of hours for us. He's near the site of the attack. Phil, what can you tell us?
BLACK: Cyril, what we have is an update from London's Metropolitan Police. And it's a new statement from them. It's quite a bit in here to go through. What they're telling us is that one man was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers, they say, are in the process of informing this person's next of kin. Eight people were injured and taken to three separate hospitals. Two people treated at the scene for minor injuries. They then say - and this is an interesting point to make - at his stage, there are no reports of any persons having suffered any knife injuries. That's a direct quote.
The driver of the van, a man, aged 48, was found detained by members of the public at the scene, and then arrested by police in connection with the incident. He's being taken to hospitals as precaution, they say, and retaken into custody once he's been discharged from hospital. He will also be subject to a mental health assessment in due course, they say. They say the police counterterrorism command are in charge of this. They're the one overseeing this and crucially, because this is something that is relevant to the witness accounts you've been hearing, as well.
At this early stage of this investigation, no other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported to police, however, the investigation continues. That's important because as we've been saying, from the witnesses that we've been speaking to, people who say they saw these events unfold, many of them say they saw more than one person in that vehicle. Two, possibly three, in total. Those were some of the witness accounts that we've heard this morning. They talked about seeing people run from the scene, according to the police from the statement they have just released, they say at this stage, they are not aware of any further suspects, nor have they been - nor they have any further suspects reported to them. But the clear headline there is that one person has died as a result of this event. Eight others have been hospitalized, as a result of their injuries.
VANIER: All right. Phil Black reporting live from London, near the scene of the incident. And if you're just joining us now, this is what we're learning that one man has indeed been killed in this incident, eight people were injured. The driver is a man whose aged 48. He was found detained by members of the public at the scene and then arrested by police in connection with the incident. This is all the latest information that we're getting. It's just seconds before 5:00 a.m. And it is daybreak in London. Most people, perhaps, have not woken up to this news yet and they'll be doing so very shortly, indeed.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, breaking news.
VANIER: And we continue our breaking news coverage of the incident in London. I'm Cyril Vanier.
CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. A van hit pedestrians in the Finsbury Park neighborhood.