The imam who protected the suspect in the Finsbury Park attack has spoken of how he and other worshippers did their best to “extinguish any flames of anger or mob rule”.
Mohammed Mahmoud prevented a furious crowd from taking out their anger on the suspect after a van ploughed into people outside the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, north London.
One person died during the incident, which took place in the early hours of Monday, and eight more were seriously injured.
Mohammed Mahmoud explained that they managed to pin down the suspect and keep him safe until police arrived.
He said: “By God’s grace we managed to surround [the suspect] and to protect him from any harm.”
“We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming every angle, and by coincidence while the people who were tending to the injured were calling emergency services, a police van drove past so we flagged them down.
“We told them the situation, said there’s as 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.
“So we pushed people away from him until he was safely put into the back of the van. That’s all that we did.
“It wasn’t me alone, there was a group of brothers who were calm and collected and managed to calm people down and to extinguish any flames of anger or mob rule that would have taken charge had this group of mature brothers not stepped in.”
Video from the scene shows men aiming kicks and punches at the man as he is sprawled on the ground, though Mahmoud said he was “unscathed”.
Mahmoud has been praised by many, including the Mayor of London and Michael Gove.
Speaking in Finsbury Park on Monday afternoon, Sadiq Khan said: “I want to pay tribute to the fantastic response form the police and emergence serves but also from the local community.
“Local worshippers apprehended the man in the van who mowed down the pedestrians. I’ve heard stories from the imam, who stopped local residents from understandably taking out their anger on this terrorist.”
Mahmoud also said that he and his colleagues would do everything they could to calm any tensions within the community.
He said: “This community of ours in Finsbury Park is a mild-mannered, calm community not known for their violence. Our mosques are incredibly peaceful.
“I can assure you that we will do our utmost to calm any tensions.
Immediately after the incident people were calm, people were praying for the victims of the attack and everybody knew there was nothing more they could do but pray and let the emergency services carry out their exemplary job.”
The 47-year-old suspect was later arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu thanked members of the public for restraining the suspect.
Various reports suggest the attacker shouted versions of wanting “to kill all Muslims” and that he “did my bit”.
The 48-year-old suspect was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder.
One local resident told HuffPost UK: “One thing that is clear. This happened after night prayer that us Muslims pray during Ramadan. It was clearly an act that was planned and an act that was done with full intention.”
The incident is being treated as a terror attack.