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Van Plows Through Pedestrians On A Busy London Street. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired June 18, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY, INTELLIGENCE AND TERRORISM ANALYST: -- incident, right, so that if there were multiple people or multiple events, we would certainly know that by now. It doesn't mean this isn't scary or isn't animated from an animus or a political belief.
It just means that this would -- them being able to get the driver, the public engaging and getting the driver to the police at least tells me, from an operational perspective, that this is not an ongoing threat.
But now the London police have got to tell us -- they've got to tell, obviously, people who will be waking up in a couple of hours what exact this is. And as I said earlier, their failure to do that so far is significant at this stage.
But I think that the immediate threat, I think I would say at this stage is at least contained given the explanations -- given the descriptions we've seen so far.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And the fact that they have not put out any warnings to people nearby, although we heard from Cynthia say that she was witnessing what appeared to be police going to buildings and houses in that surrounding area. Does that make sense to you?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. So, what we want to do in a case like this, if you're the police, is obviously the person is apprehended, but you have to make sure that there is not multiple attacks. We are used to the multiple attack scenarios. We've seen it enough, unfortunately, in Western Europe lately.
And so, keeping civilians, especially remember the time, it's late on Sunday night, so this is good in the sense people are home. Keeping them within their homes. People get curious. They hear things. They come watch and then that becomes a sort of soft target for further attacks.
So, part of this is trying to contain the population and the citizens within their homes, so that the curious do not become vulnerable targets if there are multiple attacks. Of course, the police are also going to always be worried that there might have been others in the car that got away. So, there is also an investigatory side to this.
But this is exactly what we do in these kinds of attacks. We want to limit the central, sort of ground zero -- unfortunately that's the term we use -- you want to limit that space and you do not want populations coming towards it.
We have seen previous terror attacks in which the multiple -- it's the second one or the third one that actually gets people, who were curious about the first attack -- certainly in the Boston marathon bombing, the second attack harmed some people who were running towards the first bomb. The second bomb was placed down the street in a way that would have impacted first responders.
CABRERA: And It does appear looking at the video that they have cordoned off this area. But in that -- in an initial picture on the right hand of the screen, the one that we presented to our viewers that we got from Cynthia immediately was taken very quickly after this incident apparently took place.
I want to just reset for our viewers who may be just joining us right now, who are tuning in to what we are seeing, what we've learned right now according to London's Metropolitan Police, was there was some kind of an incident right after midnight. Reports that a vehicle has collided with pedestrians and that there are several casualties.
Again, the video you're looking at right there is brand new, just in from the scene. We don't know how many casualties there are, but we do know at least one person has been arrested according to police.
Now, a witness I spoke to just moments ago said police were performing cardiac massage on at least one victim who was on the ground. This happened on Seven Sisters Road. That's near Finsbury Park, north of Central London.
Officers say they were called to the scene there shortly after midnight local time. It's now just after 2:00 a.m.
I want to bring back in our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who is familiar with this area.
Peter, we have learned so much information just from that eyewitness, who didn't see the actual incident itself when the vehicle apparently hit some pedestrians, but she was able to give us a great description of what has happened since then.
Did you have a chance to listen in? And if so, what did you -- what stood out to you?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean, she -- the witness seemed to imply that the targets of the attack were Muslims leaving the Finsbury Park mosque. And the Finsbury Park mosque where I've been -- I've visited in the past is kind of a notorious mosque at least historically.
The chief cleric, as it were, in the mosque was somebody called Abu Hamza al-Masri for many years. He's now serving a life sentence in United States.
Abu Hamza, some viewers may recall him because he had a rather distinctive appearance. He had one eye missing and hooks for hands because of an accident he suffered in Afghanistan in a de-mining accident.
[21:05:03] But Abu Hamza attracted many Islamist militants to his mosque -- Richard Reid, the so-called Shoe Bomber, (INAUDIBLE) and others. So, this was a place -- I'm now giving you a little bit of history here. The mosque, I'm sure, has changed in recent years.
But certainly, if you were interested in targeting a group of Muslims at a mosque that was fairly notorious, this would be the mosque that you would do it at.
We still don't know the motive, but I think it's quite significant that Finsbury Park mosque had the reputation historically of being one of the most militant mosques in London.
And that reputation may be more historical than current. But the fact is, is that this was a place where many militants in the past came to worship. It was run by a guy who is now serving a life term in a U.S. prison.
I mentioned all that context because if indeed the person driving this vehicle was planning to target a particular mosque, Muslims worshipping at a particular mosque, this might be part of his calculation.
CABRERA: And again, we don't yet if this indeed is a terrorist incident, but we're trying to gather as much information as we possibly can.
Police just confirming that there were reports of a vehicle and collision with pedestrians. They said officers responded with other emergency services and there were a number of casualties being worked on at the scene.
We heard from that eyewitness following the event that there were at least two people that she saw on the ground and at least one person appeared to have very serious injuries. It appeared they were doing cardiac massage. That was the phrase that she used.
And now she says that the emergency crews have since left the scene. Presumably, the ambulances were taking people to the hospital, she said, and that police still had a very heavy presence in the area and that it appeared they were going to buildings and houses around this area as they continue an investigation of some sort.
She did say that she saw one person being put in a police car, that there was yelling outside her window when she looked out. There had been these huge crowds that have gathered. There were people yelling and shouting, trying to get police officers' attention and that they actually were pushing a person toward police when they arrived on scene.
Again, we don't know if that person was the person who was driving the vehicle involved in the collision or how that person is connected. These are all pieces of information we're hoping to get answers on when police eventually are putting out more information. The last time Metropolitan Police tweeted or put police information out on their Twitter account was now over half an hour ago. This incident again happening a little after midnight, they said, local time. So, that's now been more than two hours ago.
And, Juliette, you've talked about the fact that they aren't giving us more information as being a bad sign.
KAYYEM: Yes. I think, at this stage, I've been with you an hour now -- I think at this stage, the fact that we're not hearing it was a drunk driver, we're not hearing it was drugs suggests that the explanation is more complicated, more political and that they want to get the story right.
You've heard from the eyewitness reports that one person was apprehended alive and given to the police. We're also hearing the focus was clearly people leaving the mosque. This makes -- in the horrible world that we are dealing with, this actually makes more sense to me now.
It did not make sense to me that a random attack would have occurred on a Sunday night down a busy street as we started to focus on the geography of where it is, if this is a hate crime or terrorism, based on animus towards the Muslim population than focusing on a specific mosque.
And as Peter Bergen -- there's a lot of history of that mosque. Now the timing makes more sense because people may have been leaving the mosque at that time.
But we're now at a stage where we probably do need to hear from the Metropolitan Police about what they suspect at this stage. But the silence regarding other explanations is when an analyst like me, based on the eyewitness reports we're also hearing from, begins to think that this is unfortunately another weekend night in London in which someone is utilizing a car as a weapon of destruction.
CABRERA: And, Peter, because this is happening during Ramadan, does that raise or heighten your questions in terms of whether this person was targeting Muslims in particular?
[21:10:05] BERGEN: That would also explain why there were a lot of people -- a lot of Muslims at the mosque. Ramadan, as you know, particularly in a country like the United Kingdom where the days are very long in June, you're fasting from dawn to dusk and then you're breaking the fast at night.
Now, in the United Kingdom right now, they are at the height of summer. Night comes pretty late in London at this time of year. So, it wouldn't be surprising that you would have a fairly large number of people at the mosque breaking their fast and praying at this time of night, which accounts for the pictures that we're seeing on the screen of quite a number of people being out and dressed.
Some of them are wearing white gowns. And so, that would be the significance of Ramadan in this context, Ana. CABRERA: Again, we're locking at pictures there from the scene. On the left side, video that's recently into our newsroom here at CNN. We do see a lot of emergency vehicles there on the scene. We see a lot of flashing lights, a heavy police presence.
And again, we're bringing you these images and the information as we're getting it. Clearly, Juliette, there's the question that we've been asking now multiple times. There have been so many attacks in London. Again, we don't know what kind of an attack this one is, but the fact that a vehicle has been used and has done significant harm -- this idea of how do you prevent something like that.
KAYYEM: It is almost impossible in urban environments, especially in a situation like this. After London Bridge, after the other attacks, we actually used mobile barriers, trucks, other things to protect big urban areas, now that there's a growing concern about vehicles being used to mow down people.
So, people who -- if you look -- actually, if you look around, you'll be surprised how many sort of mobile barriers there are. We don't -- Public Safety doesn't advertise them. In a way, at least to minimize the possibility that a car would get on to, say, a bridge or into a major public area or park.
The challenge here, of course, is -- Peter is describing it, is you basically have a residential area. You're never going to be able to minimize all risk as regard someone just driving along. And that's the challenge that these can be very catastrophic attacks depending on the success of the use of the vehicle.
It's a different kind of attack than, obviously, a bomb or what we get in this country with guns as we saw a year ago in Orlando, but nonetheless one that can have a lot of damage.
What I think is interesting about this right now from what we're picking up now, at least some reporting going on now, is that the individual picked up seemed fine. In other words, there was no other incident -- there was no one else in the car.
This may be a situation as we've seen unfortunately before. Someone with a lot of hatred and possibly directed towards the Muslim community in London using a car to harm them at a time of great religious -- this is the moment for -- in Ramadan and families are together. They are fasting all day, as Peter said. There are children there.
This is not sort of a random moment when it comes to Islam and, therefore, making it devastating for that community if -- as we're hearing. And as now is being reported, this was targeted.
This also goes to the -- just simply because -- look, terrorism takes many forms. We should not be afraid to utilize that word even if the targets, right -- or if the targets are the Muslim community. Terrorism is attacks on a civilian population for ideological purposes. And if this is based on -- this is a hate crime, but it may also be something more. CABRERA: Juliette, considering that Cynthia, the witness on the scene, that was telling us that the ambulances have left when she was looking out her window when we were just talking with her and that police were now going, it appeared, maybe door to door to the buildings and the different houses in the area and that the person who had been put in the police car had been driven off the scene.
Why wouldn't police or law enforcement come out and make some sort of statement at that point to say we -- even just to say we're still figuring out what we're dealing with, but here's what we do know?
[21:15:17] KAYYEM: I'm surprised right now that we haven't heard more and I'm monitoring, like your team is monitoring.
What that says to me now -- I had a very different tone with you an hour ago. What that says to me now, based on just the delay in time, is that they don't have an explanation of sort of mere negligence.
This is not a drunk driver. This is not someone on drugs. This is something more and they need to get that story right. And I respect them for that. You need to get that story right. If this is a targeted attack on the Muslim community in London, given what has been going on in that country, they need to get that story right.
But the delay, we are now over an hour of any official statement, makes me believe, based on my past experiences, that there is unfortunately probably a bad story to tell in terms of the intentionality of the person who did this against a population.
Because, by now, you would know if he was just drunk or if he was just on drugs. You would know that by now. He's in custody.
CABRERA: OK. Peter Bergen, given that this is an area that is a busy zone, that is known to have this mosque, a notorious mosque, as you have described it, would you have anticipated that there would be a higher security presence in this area on a night like tonight, given it's Ramadan and knowing this is a city that is on high alert.
BERGEN: I mean, as Juliette said, we live in open societies. And we can't turn them into fortresses. And I think this is quite unexpected. The pattern of events that we've seen in London in the past several months have been jihadist attacks that have succeeded and some that haven't succeeded.
You may recall that the British have interrupted five plots I think since March and then, of course, there were two attacks that unfortunately did succeed since March. But I think because -- if it indeed -- this is what it appears to be, a targeted attack on Muslims, that is not something that we've seen in United Kingdom.
Certainly, there are neo-Nazi right-wing extremists in United Kingdom who are very anti-Muslim, But I'm sort of racking my brain to think of an example of an attack that was actually directed at the Muslim community in this way.
So, I think it would be hard to criticize British authorities for not anticipating this kind of thing because London is one of the largest Muslim cities in the world in many senses. We've got like a million Muslim living in London.
North London, where this incident took place, is home to many Muslims. And so, you couldn't protect every -- there is no way you could protect every place where Muslims worship in London. It would be an impossible task.
But if indeed this is what it appears to be, that calculus that this kind of incident was not something that might happen, obviously, it would change.
But I think picking up on something that Juliette said earlier, the mayor of London is, obviously, a Muslim. He's made I think a number of important statements about tolerance and London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, arguably the most.
And indeed, if this turns out to be a targeted attack on Muslims, this is another kind of incident that breathes I think uncertainty in a city where there's been quite a lot of terrorism of late and adds to the general uncertainty that we saw in the election that just took place -- unexpected victory -- or not victory, very strong showing of the Labour Party.
There's a lot of political turmoil in Britain right now where Theresa May called an election she thought she would win in a landslide. That did not happen. It ended up in a hung parliament. And I think, for the British, this will be just another incident that kind of unfortunately confirms for them that they are living in a time of real uncertainty.
[21:20:05] CABRERA: And, Peter, given that London and the UK have now experienced so many incidents -- I'm sorry, I'm just getting word that we have Ian Lee now on the phone joining us. Actually, he's at the scene right now.
Ian, what are you seeing? What can you tell us?
IAN LEE, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE).
CABRERA: Ian Lee, this is Ana in New York. Can you tell me what you're seeing there on the scene?
LEE: Hi, Ana. Yes. Right now, (INAUDIBLE).
CABRERA: I'm sorry, Ian. We can't hear you right now. I'm not sure if we have a mic issue, but I do want to talk to you as soon as we can get that sorted, get more of a sense of what's happening there on the ground.
Let me ask you, Peter Bergen, again. Go back to what we were just discussing, the fact that sadly there have been too many incidents and tragedies that Londoners and people in the United Kingdom have had to deal with.
Obviously, Ian Lee is in a place where it's very loud there. We can hear a lot of commotion. Guys, do we have Ian Lee back with us? OK, I'm getting no answer.
But we're seeing some more images right now. We're seeing more images right now. Is this from Ian's camera, you guys? I see Ian there right in front of the camera.
And now we have an eyewitness who is on the telephone line. So, Ian Lee, standby and we'll come back to you as soon as we get some of that technical -- technical issues sorted out.
Hillary BRIFFA (ph), if you are with me, you can hear me right now, please talk to me about what you have witnessed tonight.
HILLARY BRIFFA, EYEWITNESS: Hi. So, I rode home at Finsbury Park as usual and was walking home watching as the call to prayer was going on at Finsbury Park mosque just a couple of notches down from where I live.
I got home. Everything was fine. And then, all of a sudden, maybe half an hour later or 45 minutes or so, I started hearing a lot of commotion on the street. A lot of yelling, a lot of running. I could see everything from my window, so I ran down to join the throng to see what was happening.
We all ran up towards the mosque, the mosque entrance right next to the Finsbury Park station. And they were going -- shouting that a car had collided with people who are exiting from Finsbury Park mosque after prayer. So, there was a lot of commotion going on.
There was a white van which had been pulled over. Everybody was clamoring around it and shouting at the man (INAUDIBLE). He was the person who had hit everybody. Almost immediately, the police were pushing all of us back. So, I didn't get too much close there.
Everybody was being pushed back. Very agitated. The crowd wanted to get -- they were all shouting that this was an act of Islamophobia, white supremacy -- a white supremacist act, shouting that this was an act of terror.
CABRERA: So, let me stop you for just a moment, Hillary, because I'm having a little bit of a hard time hearing you and I want to make sure I understand what you just said. Did you hear people shouting that they believe this was an act of terror?
BRIFFA: Yes, but an act of white supremacist -- a white supremacist attack and people were shouting this was an act of terrorism, even though he's white. These were the kind of comments people were yelling out.
People saying -- people were very, very agitated, trying to get close to the attack, saying where is the media, this is an act of terror. The police were -- began pushing people back to form a cordon.
They were saying we can't give you permission at the moment because people have been injured, we need to get everybody as far back as possible, so that we can get emergency services through. They pushed the cordon back along Seven Sisters Road up until (inaudible 4:32) road, is the road just off Seven Sisters Road where they pulled the cordon, that's just past my flat actually. So, I went back into my flat, which is inside the cordon and have been watching things unfold from the side.
CABRERA: So, Hillary, did you see the person who may have been involved in this incident, who may have been driving the vehicle?
BRIFFA: No, I've seen the vehicle and I saw a lot of people crowding around somebody, but I couldn't see him myself. There were a lot of people. And in view of just the personal safety as well, I didn't want to get too close because, obviously, you never know what could happen next.
[21:25:11] But I did see the van itself. This was a white van that's now parked 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 injured. Because we were being pushed back, so that (INAUDIBLE) police could get emergency services through. So, at least three people who were seriously injured. But I think there were actually more. That's just the 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 is one of the biggest mosques in Europe. There's a very thriving community there. And people were there for prayers. When I was on my way home, I could hear the call for prayer.
And so, there were a lot of people who I think had come out from prayer, but also just citizens 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 were women, children, a lot of young adults and adult women crying, a lot of people panicking. There was a lot of shouting in Arabic, so I can't tell you exactly what was being said.
But some of the people who are shouting in English. There was a lot of agitation. People wanted to get closer to what was happening, were frustrated that they were being pushed back by the cordon, but 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 the cordon.
And at that point, a fight was breaking out between some of the men who didn't want to move back and were resisting the police, but that calmed down very quickly and they did move back.
In terms of the citizens that I could see from the window, (INAUDIBLE) everybody was cooperating with the police and there were just a lot of people standing outside the cordon and trying to see what's happening.
CABRERA: Did police give you any idea of what they were dealing with? Did they give you information on-scene to say this is what we know and you're -- ?
BRIFFA: Yes. So, I've spoken to the police and they were all just saying that they were not in a position to comment at the moment, but that there has been -- all they could say was that people have been injured and they're trying to get help for those who have been injured and that they can't really tell us more at the moment.
Because -- the police are literally just outside my front door. I did go down to offer water and I live above a food market. And the food market has been giving away at least 12 packs of water and I was helping myself to give these to the police because they were feeling a bit helpless, so that's the most we could really do to try and help.
But they've asked us to try and stay inside as much as possible. So apart from giving water, then I just re-entered my house because they've asked us not -- because I'm inside the cordon, they've asked us not to exit on to the street.
CABRERA: OK. Hillary Briffa, thank you so much for sharing what you can with us. We really appreciate it.
We are just getting a tweet now. This is coming from the Muslim Council of Britain saying, "We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park mosque. Our prayers are with the victims."
And right now, police still not confirming exactly what's going on, but we do know that there were reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrians and officers are on scene, that there are emergency services and that there are a number of casualties being worked on. That was the latest statement that we had.
Bringing everybody up to speed who is just joining us, we are following breaking news out of London. Reports that a vehicle collided with pedestrians and there are several casualties.
This is brand new video just in from the scene. We are told that there are a number of casualties and at least one person was arrested. We spoke with another eyewitness earlier who saw police performing, what she called, cardiac massage on at least one victim.
This happened on Seven Sisters Road near Finsbury Park, north of Central London. And again, that tweet I just read to you from the Council of Britain saying -- the Muslim Council of Britain rather saying, "we have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park mosque. Our prayers are with the victims."
And officers say they were called to the scene shortly after midnight local time. It's now nearly 2:30 in the morning.
I spoke a short time ago with a woman who lives very close to where this happened, Cynthia Vanzella. And she described what she heard and saw.
[21:30:10] CYNTHIA VANZELLA, EYEWITNESS: I was in bed really and I just 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 were very nervous, shouting very loud, trying desperately to make some signs 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 then, in a matter of like seconds, 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 happens in here is that this community in North London is a very mixed community. It has people from many, many different countries, different cultures, and we all live perfectly fine.
I never saw anything nowhere close to this happen at all. We have a church in one road, an evangelic church in another corner and a mosque across the road as well and everybody just lives fine. We never had any problem at all in here.
But what happens is that usually some of this Muslim -- when they finish their prayers in the mosque, they just gather in this little corner to talk for a bit, and I'm guessing -- I'm not sure, but I'm guessing now because it is Ramadan, there was maybe more of them for a little bit -- into a little bit later maybe because it was so hot in London today as well.
So, I'm guessing that maybe they were the victims because they were desperate. I saw so many of them crying, screaming, trying to get police and ambulance around. So, I'm guessing that if someone ran over 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?
VANZELLA: Yes. Yes. They were all wearing the white Muslim -- I don't know the name of that, but yes.
CABRERA: OK. So --
VANZELLA: There was just like just some kind of people in there, but mostly them. And because I'm so used to see them there every day, I just assume 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 that we have that there are multiple casualties or a number of casualties -- actually are the words they used. From your vantage point, could you see how many people may have been injured?
VANZELLA: I saw a lot of people injured. They were helping on a pavement and they were trying to help them to get away of the scene. I saw at least two on the floor that I couldn't properly because there was a police van covering part of my view from my window.
But I saw at least two of them on the floor. One of them, I think, maybe was really, really bad hurt because I saw a police officer doing a cardiac massage, trying to resuscitate them.
So, I'm guessing that at least one of them was really, really bad hurt. I'm not sure about the other. But they were working -- paramedics were working on them on the floor for quite some time. (INAUDIBLE) they just left them in an ambulance. They've probably gone to hospital, don't know.
CABRERA: So, there's an ambulance that has now come and gone? And are there still people laying on the ground?
VANZELLA: The road is still closed. There's still many, many police officers around and police cars around. Most of the people have dispersed now. I can see the police are going to some buildings and houses around.
I can see them trying to -- maybe they're trying to talk to witness as well. There's one small ambulance car. I think all of these ambulances already left with all the victims. So, it's more quiet now, but there's a lot of police still around. And the helicopter is still around as well.
CABRERA: Were you able to see the person they arrested?
VANZELLA: I didn't. What I saw, someone filmed and I saw on the Internet after. I saw when the first police car arrived, these people were pushing someone towards the police. They were both very mad, but I didn't see any fight at all, but just very, very nervously pushing these people -- this person towards the police.
[21:35:10] And they put them inside the police car and I couldn't see their face from my window. But then it was weird because after that I saw someone -- maybe on Twitter, someone posted a video, someone that was done there because there was many people filming and I could see the face.
It looked like a man that was being arrested. And the person who posted the video said that their guy had run over people in that corner.
CABRERA: Who was it who said their guy had run over people on the corner?
VANZELLA: With a car, I guess, I don't know what kind of car.
CABRERA: OK. So, you didn't see the vehicle that was involved in this?
VANZELLA: No, because there was a lot of people in front of it. And there's always some cars parked on the corner in a way, so maybe one of those cars. I don't know exactly which one.
I have -- I can see half of the road from my point of view here. Just half of the road. So, it is further down (INAUDIBLE). But they took this man, the people pushing toward the police, it's like, take him, take him, and they put him in a police car, took him away I suppose. But I didn't see them arrest anyone else after that.
CABRERA: OK. So, you did see they put somebody in a police car. It was a male. Did you see what he was wearing or anything else that would provide some kind of a description for that person?
VANZELLA: Not really. I could see just below the heads because that was in the very first moment when there was a lot of people and the first police car arrived, so everybody was very nervous. There was a lot of people together.
I would say easily 200 people, probably more in the tiny little corner of this small access road. There's a lot of people. Probably more than 200. And I saw on the video after -- I could see his face a little bit more, but I'm not sure if I can really describe him.
CABRERA: When you said there's about 200 people, that is a lot of people. Were those folks that were already outside, do you believe, or that --
CABRERA: Just eventually came to the scene?
VANZELLA: Yes, they definitely ran to the scene because this is a little access road in the corner with Seven Sisters Road, which is a very, very busy road in North London. And it's just one block away from the entrance of the tube stations, the main tube station. So, it is normally a very busy road.
And that's why it took me awhile to go to the window as well because I'm used to noise outside all the time, but then I realized it was a bit too much, and I went to have a look.
CABRERA: Again, that was witness Cynthia Vanzella who was nearby when she heard commotion on the street outside her apartment and looked out to see this gathering of people who were in a panic after a vehicle ran over pedestrians.
We're still waiting to hear more information from police. But we have received a tweet from the Muslim Council of Britain that reads, "we have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park mosque. Our prayers are with the victims."
Now, Finsbury Park mosque is a North London, north of the center of the city and this also happening on Seven Sisters Road where it's a busy area, a big intersection in this part of the city.
I want to bring in Arsalan Iftikhar. He's the senior editor at the "Islamic Monthly". And first, Arsalan, thanks for being with us. What's your reaction to what we're learning?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR, SENIOR EDITOR, "ISLAMIC MONTHLY": Well, Ana, obviously -- I'm obviously saddened to hear about this attack that took place in Finsbury Park. Obviously, the victims and bystanders are in our prayers.
I think it's a sad continuation of a cycle of violence that we're seeing here in the last -- and it's something that communities of color and minority communities have to grapple with right now in the western diaspora today.
CABRERA: It's important to note that police have not said that this is an act of terror. We don't know who exactly was involved or what their motivations were.
But we do understand at least one person is under arrest according to the police statement. And we also heard from that eyewitness telling us that when police arrived, people who were on the scene were pushing a person toward police.
So, clearly, it sounds like there were citizens on scene taking action, trying to right the situation. We're again waiting to learn more about what that situation exactly is.
But would it make sense to you, Iftikhar, that there would be a large gathering of people at a mosque on a Sunday night during Ramadan?
[21:40:00] IFTIKHAR: Absolutely. Ana, every night during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, we have our nightly tarawih prayers where hundreds of people come to their local mosques to pray with their fellow Muslims.
And I think something important to keep in mind, Ana, is that it is an act of terrorism when somebody tries to kill any group of people and cause mayhem regardless of the demographic, background of the perpetrator or of the victims.
That cannot be underscored enough that when a person drives their van into a large group of pedestrians, seeking to kill and maim, that is an act of terrorism by definition.
CABRERA: And what do you know about this area, Arsalan? I understand you're familiar. IFTIKHAR: Yes. My wife lived in London for ten years. Finsbury Park is on northside of London. It's a very affluent area. Very diverse. People from all sorts of backgrounds.
And so, if this indeed turns out to be an attack on the local mosque, it was targeting the Muslim communities there, London has a very, very large Muslim population.
Some statistics show that one out of every seven people in London is Muslim. So, again, it's a very multicultural, very diverse area and it's a tragedy regardless of where it occurred.
CABRERA: All right. We really appreciate your time. Arsalan Iftikhar, thank you again so much for joining us, the "Islamic Monthly" senior editor.
I want to speak now with Rayan (ph). She was inside the mosque during the attack and witnessed the aftermath. Rayan, what can you tell me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey. So, basically, we were praying in mosque. And then, when we finished, everyone was leaving. I stayed behind to talk to someone.
After that, I heard some people shouting and screaming. So, I went outside to see what's going on. People were saying go inside, go inside, it's not safe. Then, obviously, I didn't listen and then I kept walking.
And then the crime scene, I saw some people laying down and sadly injured. One of them I believe was dead. And then police moved us. Yes, that's it. That's what happened.
And also, someone was arrested. I believe it was the criminal.
CABRERA: Now, a friend of yours was with someone who was hit, we understand?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry?
CABRERA: I'm being told that a friend of yours was with somebody who was hit by this van.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My friend, her brother was injured. I couldn't talk to her because police moved me.
CABRERA: What do you know about those people who were injured? And were they all people from the mosque?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They were all of them from mosque when they were leaving.
CABRERA: Did you see how many people were on the ground and may have been injured?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, at that time, there were four people. And one of them, I believe, was dead. The rest were badly injured. CABRERA: I'm so sorry to hear that. And who was gathered at the mosque? How many people were there as part of the prayer service tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, can't hear you.
CABRERA: Yes. Can you tell us a little bit more about how many people were there at the mosque this evening and gathered and what this event exactly was and how this unfolded?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Well, it's Ramadan. So, obviously, around 11 to 12, we pray tarawih usually in Finsbury Park mosque. There's a lot of people there.
At that time, there was a lot of people outside. First, I thought it was just like a fight or someone was stabbed, but then it was a terrorist attack.
CABRERA: So somebody seemed to think that this was a terrorist attack immediately?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CABRERA: Why is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he targeted people and he killed people. He tried to kill a lot of people. So, obviously, it's a terrorist attack. He targeted Muslims this time.
CABRERA: OK. You believe Muslims were targeted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they were. 100 percent.
CABRERA: All right. Well, again, we appreciate you spending some time with us. Sorry for what you witnessed tonight. Glad you personally are safe. Rayan, thank you again for joining us.
I want to bring in CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen now again joining us. You have been listening, Peter. We're starting to get more information about who was on scene here.
We have now confirmed that there was an event at the mosque this evening and that people outside the mosque appear to be the target of this vehicle that plowed into pedestrians.
[21:45:07] We don't know exactly the motivation. We don't know the person who was behind the wheel, if that's the person who was under arrest. We don't have the information about the number of casualties.
What we do know from police was that there was a vehicle in collision with pedestrians and officers responded to the scene along with other emergency services and there were a number of casualties being worked on at the scene and that one person has been arrested. That is the only information that has been put out there so far.
But now we do know that this mosque apparently had a lot to do with what was happening in that area at the time when this attack occurred.
BERGEN: Yes. So, we've had absolutely no evidence that the perpetrator -- that this was an accident or that he was impaired in some way. We have the Muslim Council of Britain saying that Muslims were deliberately targeted.
Several eyewitnesses that have talked to you, Ana, confirm that in various different ways. And so, we have what looks like a targeted attack on Muslims leaving a well-known mosque in North London. A mosque which, by the way, has certainly had a history of attracting Islamist militants in the past.
And while we don't know the motivation, if you were somebody planning to make a statement, Finsbury Park mosque would be the place you might want to make it because it's certainly been associated with people who are now in United States prisons on life sentences.
When I say all this, I'm referring to the history of the mosque. I'm not talking about what the mosque is today. But I'm trying to put myself in the mind of the perpetrator and thinking about motive.
If you wanted to make a statement, this is a mosque where Islamist militants have gathered in the past and this might be part of the calculation of the perpetrator, if indeed this is terrorism.
London -- this part of London is, I would say, sort of kind of a mix of working and middle class. A lot of Muslims live in North London. It's one of the largest Muslim cities in the world outside the Middle East or South Asia. Perhaps a million Muslims live in London. The mayor of London, of course, is a Muslim.
And I think this will contribute unfortunately to a feeling in London of uncertainty when you've had terrorist attacks in March at the Westminster Bridge, then more recently at the London Bridge, and a number of terrorist plots that have been averted.
But here, of course, the motivation appears to be very different. And I think recourse -- I think Juliette was saying earlier, I think terrorism, of course -- what is the definition of terrorism? It's violence directed at civilians by entities other than states.
And this attack seems to fall pretty clearly in that ambit, not dissimilar to the attack on the congressional Republicans playing baseball practice where somebody with motivations of sort of anti- Trumpism tried to kill members of a congressional Republican delegation.
So, I mean, I think this attack, if indeed it is terrorism, and there's really I think very little doubt, to my mind, that this is terrorism, terrorism can come from any number of political ideologies. From the left, from the right, from jihadists, from neo-Nazis, from anti-immigration activists and I think that's where we are tonight, Ana.
CABRERA: I want to bring back Arsalan Iftikhar who is joining us again via Skype. He is the senior editor at the "Islamic Monthly". Arsalan, as we're continuing to learn that it appears that there were a lot of Muslim people in this area and that they may have been the target of this van that ran into pedestrians that police are now investigating, do you feel that Muslims were under attack here?
IFTIKHAR: The Muslim Council of Britain has already come out with a public statement, as you mentioned, Ana, saying that some of their worshippers were targeted in this attack.
And again, as Peter was earlier mentioning, the term terrorism is something that should become to apply to any act of mass murder that is meant to send terror across the civilian population.
And again, I think it's really important to keep in mind had the driver of this van been a Muslim, this would have called an act of terrorism immediately without even hesitating for a moment.
Now, when the victims happen to be Muslim, we see a lot more trepidation in using that term. And so, again, I think we have to get away from the double standards of our societies and call an act of terrorism as terrorism regardless of who the victims are and who the perpetrators are.
[21:50:07] CABRERA: I think we're very careful to go there until we hear a word from the authorities on the scene because we don't have all the information at this time, but I think you bring up a good point.
Let me bring back Juliette Kayyem who is joining us via Skype as well, who has been with us the last couple of hours as this incident has been unfolding.
Juliette, we still have not heard any more information from the law enforcement there.
KAYYEM: That's exactly right. So, what that says is that there is no benign explanation for this tragedy. In other words, it's not drugs, it's not drunk driving. This is something that the police are both investigating because they want to make sure that other mosques that might be vulnerable are protected at this stage.
Remember, it's Ramadan. This is not just a safer time for the Muslim community. It's also a family time. So, you have multiple generations visiting mosques at the very time that this happened.
And so, I would anticipate, as I've been saying, that the absence of anything being said by the Metropolitan Police since those tweets, almost over an hour ago now, means that they are trying to figure out what the story is and what they should be saying to the public.
If this is, as we now -- as Peter and I have been saying, it certainly looks like it based on our expertise, this is a targeted attack -- targeted terrorist attack against the Muslim community, if that is where the evidence is going.
The first thing you are going to want to do is to harden, to the extent you can, mosques throughout London because of ongoing Ramadan festivities.
And just to remind your viewers, for Christians in this country, the attack in South Carolina on churchgoers in the church had a particular significance. There is places of worship seen in this day and age of horribleness, seen still to be places where faith and kindness can thrive.
And so, the particular horror of targeting a mosque, as the eyewitnesses and the reportings show, cannot be underestimated for a community that is, as you said, a huge population within London certainly and makes up for its diversity and vibrancy in a city that is really a sort of center for the kind of diversity that many nations wish that they could have.
So, that is where this is going. I have no doubts any more that we will hear from the Metropolitan Police to tell us news regarding the purposefulness of this attack and they are just probably trying to figure out who the perpetrator is and making sure there is no one else.
Primary goal now is to protect others in the Muslim community, protect those mosques. People will be waking up in two or three hours going to the mosque in the morning for morning prayers. They have to make sure that people are protected. That's their number one priority now.
CABRERA: Again, what we do know from police right now is that a vehicle collided with pedestrians. The Muslim Council of Britain put out a statement saying they were told by law enforcement that it was a van that hit worshippers who were leaving the mosque in this area, the Finsbury mosque and this is near Finsbury Park in the northern part of London, north of the central part of that city on Seven Sisters Road, and that there were a number of casualties on the scene.
We have heard from eyewitnesses who said that they saw a number of people on the ground, anywhere from two or three people who appeared to have some serious, serious injuries, and one person who at least appeared to have serious enough injury where they were doing some kind of cardiac treatment for that person. Cardiac massage is how that was described.
Juliette, it's been almost three hours since this incident took place. We know that it was a little after midnight according to police when they received the reports of the vehicle plowing into pedestrians.
What would police and law enforcement investigators be doing right now?
KAYYEM: So, the number one priority is protecting the population in London, in particular the Muslim community in London.
So, number one is, are there others who may be affiliated with the individual who we understand is not only in custody, but is not injured, that he is actually able to speak or at least provide some evidence. They know who he is by now. They are searching his home. They are searching his social media feed. So, that's the first primary issue. The second, of course, is ensuring that there's no more damage or harm done this night. So, you'll see some hardening presumably of softer targets, especially in the Muslim community and at mosques that ought to be done given that Ramadan is still ongoing.
[21:55:05] And then the third is sort of longer-term pieces and investigation, is this someone who has shown hatred towards the community and how did he do so? Was he known to police officers? Was he known to the mosque? That's always a curiosity. Is it someone who has shown up there protesting just to figure out how big this network is.
But if this was a targeted attack, as we will figure out relatively soon, against a civilian population for religious purposes, we should not shy away from the term terrorism. It would apply in this instance if the motivations were as being described at least by the Muslim community there and some of your eyewitnesses.
But we will wait for the Metropolitan Police to say what they know at this stage about the motivation.
CABRERA: Again, the statement we got from the Muslim Council of Britain was, we have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park mosque. Our prayers are with the victims.
Is that enough to say they were indeed the target, Juliette, to call this terror?
KAYYEM: I think that the Metropolitan Police were probably very careful about what they wanted to say publicly to the Muslim community at this stage. But I interpreted that as, we are nervous, you may be under some heightened threat at this stage, and that probably has been followed up with greater police presence at mosques during this time.
So, the very fact that the Metropolitan Police would have reached out to the community, I think, is a way of -- is the kind of community engagement we've seen in Britain. We see it here in the United States between law enforcement and the Muslim community in terms of sharing information, but also being ready if something like this were to happen.
Look, coincidences happen, Ana. I'm willing to admit that, but we've had too much reporting over the last two hours and too much silence by the Metropolitan Police to make me think that a car just happened upon a busy mosque on Ramadan at this stage. So, that's what I'm looking at right now and anxious, as everyone else is, to hear from the Metropolitan Police in terms of what their findings are.
CABRERA: Peter Bergen, we talked a lot about the Muslim population in London that they have a large Muslim population. Based on just the dynamics on the ground there, is this -- are these different cultures and religions well integrated?
BERGEN: I would say, Ana, they're much better integrated in the United Kingdom than they are in other countries in Europe. Let's take France where about 8 percent of the population is Muslim, but up to 60 percent of the French prison population is Muslim. So, that gives you a sense of how discriminated against the French Muslim population is in France.
And we've seen, obviously, a lot of terrorist attacks in France, similarly in Belgium. Many carried out by people who have gone through the French or Belgian prison systems.
I think the United Kingdom has done a much better job overall of integrating their Muslim populations than certainly many countries in Europe, which is not to say that it's perfect.
I think United States does an even better job because we have something called the American Dream, which has operated pretty well for all sorts of immigrants, including Muslim immigrants, who tend to be about as educated as the American and have similar incomes. And that's certainly not something you can say for most European Muslims.
So, I would say the United Kingdom has done a better job than certainly European countries of integrating Muslims. But it's not perfect.
I mean, bear in mind, of course, the mayor of London is a Muslim, so that sort of speaks for itself. There aren't too many American mayors of cities in the United States who are Muslim.
So, being the mayor of London is one of the most important political jobs in the United Kingdom and arguably one of the more important jobs writ large since London is after all such an important financial center.
So, I would say overall that Muslims in the United Kingdom are better integrated than their European counterparts, but clearly there are problems.
And we've seen the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain, which was certainly underlined by the Brexit vote. And there is certainly kind of anti-immigrant parties like the British National Party, which is sort of a -- kind of essentially a fascist party as that exists in the United Kingdom. And much of their kind of rhetoric is directed against immigrants.