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Prime Minister May: Treating Van Incident As "Potential Terrorist Attack"; One Person Has Died After Van Hit Pedestrians; Witnesses: Three Men Exited Van That Hit Pedestrians; Witness Describes Scene In Finsbury Park; One Dead, At Least Eight Wounded After Van Hit Pedestrians; London Mayor: Van Incident Was A "Horrific Terrorist Attack"; Police Locals Restrained Van Driver Before He Was Arrested; Police: Van Driver Arrested Is A 48-Year-Old Man; Muslim Council Of Britain: Van Ran Over People Leaving Mosque; PM May Chairs Emergency Meeting After Van Incident. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States, and of course, all around the world. We are continuing our breaking news coverage of what Prime Minister Theresa May is calling "a potential terrorist attack" in London. I'm Rosemary Church.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: And I'm Cyril Vanier. At least one man is dead after a van drove into pedestrians here in the Finsbury Park neighborhood; he was pronounced dead at the scene, at least eight people are wounded. Mrs. May is chairing an emergency meeting later on. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, called the incident a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people. Police arrested a 48- year-old man at the scene and two witnesses say they saw three leave the van.

CHURCH: They say police arrested one, and the other two fled the scene. Police won't say whether they're seeking these other suspects.

VANIER: And video and pictures provided to CNN by witnesses on the scene show a man being detained by police. The London Metropolitan Police have not yet released an image of the person they have arrested.

CHURCH: This neighborhood is said to have a large Muslim population, and the mosque once had links to the radical cleric, Abu Hamza al- Masri. The Muslim Council of Britain says worshippers were hit as they left the Finsbury Park mosque; one witness described what she saw.


CYNTHIA VANZELLA, WITNESS: Well, what happened is that, usually, some had - when they see there's prayer in the mosque that they're together and they're in the corner to talk for a bit. And I'm guessing, I'm not sure but I'm actually now because it's Ramadan, there was maybe more of them for a little bit - I'm sure a little bit later maybe because it was so hot (INAUDIBLE) today as well. So, I'm guessing that maybe they are 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 will know who were the people car are, maybe they were there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the people that you saw crying, and trying to get police's attention-they appeared to be Muslim because they were wearing Muslim garb or how could you tell?

VANZELLA: Yes. Yes, they all are wearing the white Muslim - I don't know the name of that lash, but yes.


VANZELLA: There's some kind of people in there, but mostly with them. And because I'm so used to see them there every day, I did assume that maybe there are some Muslims between the victims I saw on the floor.


VANIER: Our Ian Lee joins me now, he is reporting from the scene of the collision. Ian, it's 6:00 in the morning where you are - just minutes after six in the morning, very early but still, people are going to start waking up to this. Are you getting any reaction from people who are just finding out about the news? Are seeing that or not?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right after this incident, this attack or what Sadiq Khan is calling a terrorist attack, there was a lot of people out here wanting answers. There was a crowd at times, was a bit agitated because of the attack and who hit? There was no violence or anything like that, but people really want to know. This is a community that is close-knit, a lot of people knowing people who were praying at that mosque. I spoke with quite a few witnesses who describe what happened, they said that an elderly man had collapsed and that's when a crowd had gathered saying the van then targeted that crowd deliberately. Every single person said that this was deliberate. And then after that, they said that the driver tried to escape and they were able to apprehend him, although he resisted. Here's what one eyewitness told me.


ABDIKADIR WARFA, WITNESS: The sound of the van (INAUDIBLE) the vehicle. Initially, I thought (INAUDIBLE) and brother. And then we saw a driver who is trying to escape, and he's using by force pushing the people and the people are all about to get him, and they keep on the ground until the police came. The people who are injured on the ground was around eight people, some of them was a serious hit on the head because the van drove into side - into the (INAUDIBLE). And I don't why the driver, he got this way and the road is just enough to drive, and what this town left is not - it's just for parking and space.

LEE: Does it look like the driver deliberately-

WARFA: He was - that's kind of person, it wasn't deliberately that one, no doubts.

LEE: No question and-

[01:05:12] WARFA: No doubt and no question on that one. I believe that was deliberate.


LEE: And Cyril, the one thing every eyewitness I also spoke with brought up is they believed that the response by the police was quite delayed. They said that they have called the authorities but it wasn't, for a quite some time until the first police officer showed up on the scene to actually apprehend the suspect. There's also talk that there were more than one people or person inside that van. One eyewitness said there were two total people in that van; another person said three, although the police haven't commented on it.

But what we've been hearing from the police has been slow, deliberate information as it comes out that eight people were injured; one person was killed. Those injured people were taken to three different area hospitals, also the person who carried out this attack: a man who has been told - we've been told is in it - he's 48 years old and was also taken to a hospital before being treated to be looked at and then release into the police's custody.

VANIER: Ian, as you talk, we're looking at live pictures of the scene. So, I want to draw our viewer's attention to them, because now that the sun has risen we're getting a perspective on what this area looks like. And as you've been describing throughout the night, quite a large security have been established within the road and totally cordoned off around that Seven Sister's Road area in Northern London with a white tent right now. At the center of the shot that we're looking at quite likely, quite possibly, an area where the forensic police are currently working at the moment, trying to establish more about the circumstances of the incident.

CHURCH: And Ian, this is the situation now. Of course, we've learned that the counterterrorism command has taken over this investigation. And we've learned from Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Britain, that police are treating as a potential terrorist attack. She will chair a meeting in the morning, an Emergency Cobra Meeting to discuss how London, and indeed Britain, will deal with this; this difficult time for the Prime Minister of Britain.

LEE: Well, that's right. You have a number of attacks now, and so the question is: how are you going to provide security for everyone here in the city and around the country? And that's one thing when I was speaking with resident here. I asked them, you know: how do they feel about this attack? Do they feel the police are doing enough? And they said, you know, we don't believe the police are doing enough, although they are stretched. Then, they said that they just have to be more vigilant. And that's something that we've heard from authorities too, telling people to be more vigilant.

One thing I want to - London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, also came out and one thing he said, which what was quite poignant is that while this appears to be attacked on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster, and London Bridge, this also an assault on all our shared values, uphold its freedom, and respect. And that is very poignant here because we've seen people from different communities coming out to support this Muslim community. We have members from the Jewish community coming out saying they were here to do whatever they could do to help. So, we have seen unity in this community from different people, after - in the aftermath of this attack.

CHURCH: Ian Lee, the people of Britain, particularly there in London waking up this Monday morning just after six o'clock in the morning to news of yet another attack in this city, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, calling this a horrific terrorist attack. Many thanks to you we'll come back to you very soon.

VANIER: Let's bring in CNN Law Enforcement Contributor, Steve Moore, now. And Steve, since we last spoke a short while ago we've got this information. Number one: from the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, that she is - that this is being treated as a potential terror. And also, more forceful words that this is a terror attack coming from the Mayor of London.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think Theresa May probably shared some things with Mayor Khan, and he was less renascent to share them with the public. I think this is good evidence that they have determined that this is, in all likelihood, a terrorist attack.

CHURCH: And Steve, talk to us now as we move forward. We know this 48-year-old man; presumably, we understand he's the driver of this van. There are some eyewitness accounts suggesting two other men fled the scene, although police are not confirming that. But talk to us about what will happen the hours ahead of this man, this 48-year-old man has been taken to the hospital that presumably has slowed down the investigation and the questioning process.

[01:10:11] MOORE: Well, it may have slowed down the investigation or interrogation process, Rosemary, but I guarantee you, it's not going to slow down the investigation. Because right now, what they're trying to do is determine whether he's affiliated with any organization, any groups, any type of person or organization who would want to hurt people because of their ways of religion, and that's going to go on full speed even while he's in the hospital. And frankly, unless the person's completely confessing, you're not going to get much useful information from them anyway unless they're defiant and want to tell you all about how brave there were.

VANIER: Steve, we're getting a different source of information on what happened. There's, of course, a police statement that there were the numerous, numerous eyewitness accounts that we've been collecting throughout the early morning and the night. And it's kind of hard to reconcile the two, because many - several, I should say, multiple eyewitnesses have told CNN that they saw three people in the van; two, who managed to flee the scene. The police statement pointedly says it has no information on any other further perpetrators. MOORE: Well, Cyril, this isn't unusual. I don't know that I've ever

gone to a situation where there weren't more perpetrators reported than actually existed, at least in this kind of mass shooting situation or mass, mass violent situation. So, I'm not surprised. In fact, when I heard the initial reports of three, my initial thought was: well, it's probably not three.


MOORE: It could - well, because people see more, more things than actually occurs sometimes. It's hard to explain, but it's just a fact of life investigating major violent acts. This sometimes people see more, more perpetrators than actually occur.

CHURCH: But Steve, there would be a great deal of concern if indeed there are two other perpetrators. How do authorities confirm either way?

MOORE: Well, one thing you're going to do is you're going to get video from this very few places in Britain right now that aren't videoed. You're going to have security videos all up and down that street, and you are going to determine: number one, where the van came from, and whether it was rented by somebody, or were they belong to somebody, whether any other witnesses prior to the attack saw anybody in the van, whether any of the cameras saw anybody besides the driver in the van. And so, you got a lot of information that is, that is objective, not subjective, and they're trying to drill down so that they don't spend time chasing people who might not exist. That is not to say these people are wrong, I'm just saying that right now the police have obviously said we have no corroborating information that there was more than one person.

VANIER: Steve, one of the aspects of social media that come up time and time again in these cases where you have attacked and you're looking at the biography of the perpetrators as you were explaining is thanks to social media, often it's quite easy and fast to have some sort of understanding of where they're coming from.

MOORE: It's astoundingly fast, Cyril. I worked at these kinds of mass violent situations before social media was really big, and it's much easier now because people who tend to hurt other for political or social reasons. For a long time before they do that, spout hates they do what we call "leaking they're hatred." They show it to the public, and you can get a real good picture of their views long before they do anything violent.

CHURCH: And Steve, as we were talking just a few minutes ago, we know, of course, that Theresa May, Prime Minister of Britain will chair this Cobra emergency meeting in the morning, and it's just after six o'clock. So, that is getting close, if she hasn't started it already. What would she likely be looking at at this point as a response to this attack?

MOORE: Well, it's going to depend on who the people are that are involved in it, whether it's one person, two persons, or itself. The main thing is that she needs to direct police - Metropolitan Police to go after whatever group in involved in this and go after them ruthlessly. If there's no connection overseas, if there's no connection from an organizational standpoint, then might be sufficient. But it's all going to depend on the intelligence she's provided at that meeting.

[01:15:09] CHURCH: All right. Talking there with CNN Law Enforcement Contributor, Steve Moore, many thanks to you for sharing your expertise on this matter. As we continue to follow this breaking news, one person did at least eight wounded when this van hit pedestrians as they were leaving a mosque after prayer. This hour, the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, is calling this and she says the police are treating this as a potential terrorist attack and we know from the London myth that they come as a van a horrific terror attack. We continue to follow this breaking news. We're back in a moment.


KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORT Headlines. We'll start with this year's Second Golf Major for the men's, the U.S. Open after John headed into the final round of play to Erin Hills. It was confident that American Brooks Koepka who distanced himself from the field for the 567 in the final round. He's the seventh straight, first-time winner of a Major.

We have witnessed an extraordinary day of cricket. The oval in London where Pakistan rivaled India by 180 runs in the finals in the ICC Champion's trophy. These are two of the greatest rivals in any sport fans which reportedly, is being watched by up to a billion viewers on TV.

Here's a remarkable case of deja vu brewing in Bermuda for America's Cup sailing in 2013. Emirate's team New Zealand burst out to an 8-1 series lead only to lose the next eight races and the title to Oracle Team USA. Fast forward to Sunday, and the Kiwis are off to another fly winning all four races this weekend which translates to three points to zero lead, ahead of next weekend's hand fixtures.

And that's a look at all your Sports Headlines, I'm Kate Riley.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

VANIER: We continue to follow breaking news on CNN of a deadly incident outside a mosque in London. It's being treated as a potential terror attack by the British government. A van struck pedestrians. We go to CNN's Max Foster who's on the scene.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, we're by the police line here. As you say, a van going into a group of people standing here in the streets. That's according to authorities. One person died, eight people are being taken to hospitals, two had minor injuries as well one the scene. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, says police are treating the incident as a potential terrorist attack. An emergency Cobra meeting, the highest level emergency meeting in this nation, and video and pictures provided to CNN by witnesses on the scene, shows a man being detained by the police. The Metropolitan Police haven't released an image of the person they've arrested; however, we know that he was nearly 50 years old. The incident took place in a park area. It's near a mosque - two mosques, in fact. Our witnesses tell CNN three men got out of the van, one of them was taken to custody, two others fled. The Muslim Council of Britain, treating it was informed that the van ran over people as they were leaving the mosque. Metropolitan Police saying the Counterterrorism Command is investigating this.

I'm going to bring in Phil Black though, he's been here overnight. We need to make these points, don't we, whether or not this is terrorism? Whether it's being called terrorism because there's a lot of tension around that and the media's being trapped into that as well.

[01:21:00] PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The police are not calling it terrorism yet. They say the Counterterrorism Command is involved but they're also keeping their options open. They're making the point that the man they have in custody, he's at the hospital at the moment, they say he will also undergo a mental health assessment at some point, as well. Crucially, the say he's the only person they're aware of, the only suspect in this incident. We've been hearing from other witnesses, they say they think it could have been one more other person in the van. The police are not saying that.

The other point, though, is that the politicians aren't going out a little bit further ahead of the police. So, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, calling it a potential terrorist attack. The Mayor of London City, Sadiq Khan, going for the steel, calling it a horrific terrorist attack, but we still wait to hear from the authorities precisely what the motivation was. But there's no doubt that here on the streets, the people who were there, this community, they wanted it to be called a terrorist attack.

FOSTER: One of the examples they're getting is the London Bridge attack and that was called terrorism very quickly and it was, you know, the motivation behind that whether ISIS was behind it. And we do it quite quick to jump on that incident that we can't actually dictate on police.

FOSTER: We have to be a little bit careful here because generally rightful what the police determine actually happens.

BLACK: What we know for certain that this a man in a vehicle who's run some people over. Cleary all the witness accounts which a very chaotic scene, it does sound -- it doesn't sound like an accident from what we're hearing but we're waiting to hear that from the authorities directly. And the police themselves they made another interesting point of their statement they ruled out 9th injuries, they're saying that didn't happen.

FOSTER: Because you going to patent haven't it?

BLACK: Which is and of course that was the patent in the other previous attacks that we had at Westminster and in London Bridge as well. So this doesn't fit those in exactly the same way, the police so far were talking about one person in car no use of knives, they're not ruling out terrorism but they are not saying that definitively is a display.

FOSTER: We're waiting to hear, you know, how the man got arrested but we do know that the public apprehended him and handed him over to the police. So in the police were there very quickly weren't they? But that was incredible moment in this evening.

BLACK: It was seen little touch of video; I think we're just starting to play on air now. Recorded by people who witnessed this, the moments after the car it come to a stop this man that him been grabbed at some point into getting out while he was on the vehicle. What we see police officers literally putting themselves between the crowd and the man, the looks a bit daze, a little bit stunned. The crowd is clearly really emotional very worked out, very loud a lot of screaming and a chaotic scene. And you can imagine it would be very much emotional, we've been hearing a lot of emotions from people here today who genuinely believe they and their community had been deliberately specifically targeted in this work.

FOSTER: Absolutely Phil, thank you very much indeed and National Security Analyst Peter Bergen is also been looking to these potential incentives behind this, this is a heisted of thoughts.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We have - well looks like a targeted attack on Muslims leaving a well-known mosque in North London; a mosque which by the way, has so many -- have a history of attracting Islamic militants in the past. And while we don't know the motivation if you were somebody planning to make a statement, since part mosque would be a place you want to make it because it's only been associated with people who are now in the United States prisons on life sentences.

And when I tell you all this, I'm referring to the history of the mosque. I'm not saying about what the mosque is today but I'm trying to talk myself in the mind of the perpetrator and think about motive that you wanted to make a statement, this is a mosque where Islamic militants have gathered in the past and this might be part of the calculation of the perpetrator if indeed that this terrorism part, you know, London this part of London is I would say sort of, you know, kind of a mixed in working middle class sort of Muslims live in North London it's one of the largest Muslim cities in the world outside the Middle East we have South Asia and, you know, perhaps a male Muslims live in London. Get married upon and of course, he's a Muslim and think that's more contributed on force nature, a feeling in London of uncertainty when proud terrorist attack in March at the Westminster bridge then more recently at the London Bridge and a number of terrorists also have been averted but here, of course, the motivation appears to be very different. And I think, you know, we're close - I think, you know, Juliet was signing earlier I think, you know, and tales and of course getting the definition of terrorism its violence direct to the civilian by entity sort of states. And this attack seems to fall pretty clearly on that.

[01:26:05] FOSTER: Well, the run rising here in Finsbury Park where this awful incident happened overnight, anger waling out very quickly here. We're going to time reflect that for you after the break by speaking to members of the community, back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[01:30:00] MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: We're in Finsbury Park in North London where a van has hit a group of people just standing in the streets after prayers here, very late at night. One person died. Eight others were injured and been taken to three hospitals across the city.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says police are treating the incident as a potential terrorist attack. She'll chair an emergency meeting a little on this morning. We'll get more details from the investigation there.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan saying police are responding to a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people. Officials say the vehicle's driver was arrested. They're not saying if they're seeking other suspects.

Video and pictures provided to CNN by witnesses on the scene say a man being detained. The London Met Police have not released an image of the person arrested. We understand he was taken to hospital.

The incident took place here in the Finsbury Park area. It's near a famous mosque. Police were there quickly after midnight and members of the public detained the man in the van, handed him over to police. He was then taken off to hospital.

The Muslim Council of Britain tweeting that a van ran over people as they were leaving the mosque, late-night prayers marking Ramadan. Witnesses say three men got out of the van, though. One of them - (INAUDIBLE) - that detail given to us by police just yet.

With us is Youssef Alkoi (ph), a community leader.

You came down here as part of a cross-religious effort. What did you discover in terms of atmosphere.

YOUSSEF ALKOI (ph), COMMUNITY LEADER: Naturally, the atmosphere for the Muslim community is tense and there's elements of fear. We want to ensure that the Muslim community doesn't be the front of extremism, be it racial extremism or extremism in the name of our own religion. We to ensure we work together with other people of faith, and people of no faith, and we work together to ensure this city and country remain peaceful and they'll never be able to divide us.

FOSTER: The Muslim Council of Britain is calling for security at all mosques. They're asked for that before, haven't they, because the community has felt under attack, but also in response today from authorities, people aren't satisfied with that either, are they?

ALKOI (ph): No. Security is important but, at the same time, we have to deal with the core issue of this rise of hate, with ideology, and we need to tell some of our Western leaders to stop appeasing powers and interest groups who provide funding and oil and the rest to these groups.

FOSTER: When you talk about the atmosphere in the community, when you came down, I felt it as well, you could describe it as anger, can't you?

ALKOI(ph): The Muslim community feels they have become fair game. Unfortunately.

FOSTER: Any sign that Islamophobia has become acceptable -


ALKOI (ph): It is, unfortunately, the case. It's not on a perception. I, as somebody that doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, can see it day in and day out. All of us have a duty to ensure a particular community that's already vulnerable, vulnerable to many, many attackers, does not feel threatened in the way that the Muslim community have. We need to disconnect from acts of extremism, whether religious or right wing, from the community.

FOSTER: You feel there's been a different response today than after the London Bridge attack, for example, you think there's been a different type of response?

ALKOI (ph): I can speak in generic terms. If an incident is Muslim related, then it is quite natural for people to jump to conclusions that it's terrorists. When it is some other extremism, like --


ALKOI (ph): And one of the papers described that man as clean shaven, white person.

FOSTER: Very controversial, that headline.

ALKOI (ph): Yes, it is really quite amazing that a potential terrorist or a terrorist is described as clean shaven, white person.

FOSTER: I think they've fixed that now, but that was a British newspaper website you're talking about.

Thank you very much. I'll let you carry on with you work. I know you're working hard today across religions and churches --

ALKOI (ph): Thank you.

FOSTER: -- and mosques as well. Thank you very much, indeed.

ALKOI (ph): My pleasure.

FOSTER: I'm going to speak to Ian Lee now who at another police line.

Ian, just take us through what we know about how the event unfolded. There was an amazing moment where members of the public detained the man in the van. There was anger around that but they handed him over to police. [01:35:16] IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Max. I arrived here shortly after this attack happened, what Mayor Sadiq Khan is calling a terrorist attack, and was able to speak with a number of eyewitnesses. They were telling me that it started when an elderly man collapsed on the pavement on the ground, a large crowd of people gathered to help him, that is when this van careened off into this group of people. Every single person I spoke with said that, that this was a deliberate attack on these people. They were able to apprehend the driver of this van. They said that he tried to resist, he tried to get away. There are reports that there were other people in this van that way were able to get away. Although the police have not come out with any information about that. One witness told me how the van had rolled over on top of someone and how they had to try to struggle to pull him from underneath that van. We know eight people were injured, one person was killed, which coincides with what the eyewitnesses were telling us. They were able to hold onto this man until police arrived and were able to hand him over, which is crucial, Max, because the police will be able to interrogate him to figure out what were his motives behind this attack. Also if there was anyone else involved in this incident.

The one thing, though, that the people, all the witnesses have told me, they said that there was a bit of a delay for the police response. They said they wish that police would respond quicker. And I asked them if they felt that this meant they didn't feel there was enough protection of their community because of all the anti-Islam rhetoric that has been floating out there, and they said that they do not feel that they have been protected enough. I asked, how do you go forward with this, and they said that we just have to be more vigilant. But there is a sense of fear here.

But there is one thing that we also have seen come out of this, and it is quite poignant. I want to start with what we heard from the London Mayor Sadiq Khan. In his statement, he said, "While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, is also an assault on all our shared values, our tolerance freedom and respect."

And that is something we have seen here. Max. We've seen members of the Jewish community coming down to see what they can do to help, other people coming down, so there are people coming together around this attack -- Max?

FOSTER: OK, Ian, thank you very much.

It's worth pointing out that Finsbury Park is a diverse area. We've heard a lot about how it has a big Muslim community. And that's true. But it has a wide range of communities. A very diverse area, very busy, but a very famous Mosque. So as we're hearing earlier, if that was the target, then a very symbolic target for this city.

We'll be back in a moment as this investigation continues.


[01:42:00] ANNOUCER: This is CNN breaking news. FOSTER: Welcome to Finsbury Park in London. Just behind that bridge is a mosque, and after people were praying there last night, a van drove into a group of people. One person died, eight others were injured, taken to hospital, two others with minor injuries.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May saying police are treating the incident as a potential terrorist attack. She'll share an emergency meeting with top ministers and also emergency responders.

The Mayor Sadiq Khan has called it a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people.

Video and pictures provided to CNN by witnesses on the scene show a man being detained by police. The London Met Police have not yet released an image of any person arrested.

This took place in Finsbury Park, near a mosque. Witnesses tell CNN three men got out of the van, one was taken into custody and the other two fled. The police are not confirming that.

The Muslim Council of Britain tweeting that it was informed that a van ran over people as they were leaving the mosque. The van hit pedestrians. Counterterrorism Command is investigating at this time. Met Police saying counterterrorism very much leading the investigation as well.

Usain Ali is an eyewitness.

Thank you for joining us.

I know you've been up all night. Our thoughts are with you and what you saw last night. But what did you see outside the mosque last night?

USAIN ALI, EYEWITNESS: The people were shouting. People usually outside when the mosque full. There's a gate and people between the gate and the mosque. We do midnight prayer. I was outside. People finished praying and some people were standing up there chanting, men, women, children up there in the area. I have cuts on my leg here.


FOSTER: So you saw the vehicle?

ALI: Yes. Then I run.



ALI: Some people were holding the man inside. There went inside to see if anyone was in the van. I was one of the people (INAUDIBLE).

FOSTER: Of course.

(CROSSTALK) FOSTER: It's a very noisy, busy area. Apparently, a lot of panic and people screaming. It sounds like a horrific --

ALI: Yes, there was panic. Some people shocked. Some people ran. I'm one of the people who run. And I think the men planned to have mass casualty because people pray in this area outside. And he came I think five, six minutes late and that's when prayer finished and people were chanting.

FOSTER: So he drove the van into the crowd when everyone knew would be the busiest time --


ALI: People -- (INAUDIBLE) -- in the midnight prayer.


[01:44:59] ALI: And he comes at the various time, the whole area will be full and it will be much casualties. If he planned, I don't know exactly. If he planned to come to this time, few minutes earlier, it would be lot of casualties outside.

FOSTER: A lot of people are saying how it could have been so much worse. But the crowds were so big, and it would have continued, it would have been

ALI: It would be huge. Most people were inside. Some people continued to pray. Some people had stopped. Some people were around the corner. I think it would not be the same because -- I blame the media because --

FOSTER: The media.

ALI: The media (INAUDIBLE).

FOSTER: I understand your anger. A lot of people are expressing that. But we can only go -- we can't --


FOSTER: -- tell us it's terrorism and then we report it. We have responsibilities --


ALI: I do understand but I --


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're having a problem with the microphone of Max Foster, who is on the scene in London. You're watching the live pictures.

Back to Max now, mic back up and running.

ALI: I think everybody deserve a peaceful life. I mean, whether on a beach, at a mosque --


ALI: -- anywhere, they just want a peaceful life. They chose to commit the crime. (INAUDIBLE) With ideology, whether they are -- (INAUDIBLE) -- whether they are media, whether they are Islamic ideology --


FOSTER: But the police, a few hours ago, the police do need a few hours of time to get --


FOSTER: There is a call from the Muslim Council of Britain calling for more security at mosques across the country. Is that something you thought?

ALI: Especially during the month of Ramadan. There's a lot of people and they come out and pray.


ALI: -- in this community, there will be a lot of casualties. Each mosque is full, even praying outside, even standing outside. And no community -- three weeks ago, I was scared. I was looking around. (INAUDIBLE)


Well, it's an absolute nightmare, as described, of course, for everyone here today.

Thank you very much for sparing the time.


FOSTER: Hope you get some sleep today.

ALI: Thank you.

FOSTER: I know you're exhausted.

And the atmosphere here is quite tense. Horrific stories coming out from the actual incident as well.

Much more quickly after these incidents, people are questioning the response already, and we haven't had the basic information from the police just yet, but that's the nature of the atmosphere in Finsbury Park today.

We'll be back in a moment.


[01:51:38] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

FOSTER: Welcome to Finsbury Park in North London where we have breaking news. Happening just a few hours ago, authorities say a vehicle hit pedestrians. One person died, eight others are injured.

The Prime minister says police are treating the incident as potential terrorism.

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan responding, saying a horrific terrorist attack on innocent people. The police, yet, not calling it a terrorist attack.

Video and pictures provided by CNN show witnesses on the scene with a man being detained by police. The Met Police haven't yet released an image of that person.

All of this took place in Finsbury Park. It's near a mosque. There were eyewitnesses saying there were other people in the van, but the police say they don't have other suspects at the moment.

The Muslim Council of Britain tweeting that it was informed a van ran over people as they were leaving the mosque. That's the story we're hearing from all of the witnesses here as well, hitting pedestrians.

Counterterrorism police are investigating this. We're expecting an update soon.

The senior editor of "The Islamic Monthly" magazine, Arsalan Iftichar, spoke earlier to CNN about what's happened. He called the van collision terrorism, no matter what the police are saying about this.


ARSALAN IFTICHAR, SENIOR EDITOR, ISLAMIC MONTHLY MAGAZINE: Terrorism is something that should become to apply to any act of mass murder that is meant to send terror across the civilian population. Again, I think it's really important to keep in mind that had the driver of the van been a Muslim, they would have called this an act of terrorism immediately without hesitating for a moment. Now, when the victims happen to be Muslim, we see a lot more trepidation using that term. Again, I think we have to get away from the double standards of our society and call an act of terrorism an act of terrorism regardless of who the victims are and who the perpetrators are.


FOSTER: Our Phil Black joins me now.

We hard it there, the double standards about what we call terrorism here. It feels early to be talking about this, doesn't it, because it just happened. But that's the debate around us.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt the people in this community firmly believe it's terrorism. They believe they've been targeted. And they do believe there is a double standard. They've accused the media of being far more willing to call an attack terrorism if they realize quickly the person doing the attacking is Muslim.

What it comes down to is establishing the person's motive. In this case, we know it's a person with a vehicle. Outside of that, we haven't heard any other confirmation from the police about what this man's motivation was. Police have said there are no knife injuries here, so this person wasn't running around slashing people. We have not heard any claim of this person running around and yelling out political slogans, religious words, ideology, any of that. That is what puts it firmly in the terrorism box. But the people here firmly believe it is.

What we're hearing increasingly from British officials is they think it is, too. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan says this is clearly a horrific terrorist attack.

FOSTER: He drove into a crowd of people. That's an attack. But when does it become terrorism? You have to find a motive.

[01:54:53] BLACK: The usual rule is it's about politics, religion. It is about trying to strike fear with a political or ideological purpose. And, yes, we're still waiting to hear precise confirmation of that.

And we do have to be careful because, although we've had other vehicle attacks in London recently, they were clearly terrorist attacks and that proven, in time it was borne out. In New York, not that long ago, in Times Square, there was a situation where a man drove into the square, ran over some people, and it didn't turn out to be terrorism despite the concerns.

FOSTER: They need to get to the motive quick because, whatever happens, as you say, the Muslims feel still targeted and there's a real fear here and at mosques around the country. The Muslim Council calling for tighter security at all mosques.

BLACK: A lot of people we've spoken to this morning say this fits a recent trend of increased Islamophobia and hate and abuse on the streets. They talk about women and children getting abuse, having their hijabs pulled at in public and so forth. They say that Islamophobia is on the rise. They say it fits into that overall trends. For that reason, they're really concerned. They want more protection. They want the authorities to respond, and they want us, journalists, to be aware of this and to report their concerns.

FOSTER: I mean, we are following what the police say. They are the ones that ultimately have the call on what it is and whether it's terror. Not even Downing Street has that call.

BLACK: Indeed.

FOSTER: We know the man has been arrested and he's alive?

BLACK: Yes, alive, in hospital, police say, just for precaution. They say once he is discharged, he will be taken into custody.

There are also -- and this shows they are keeping an open mind. The say he will have a mental health assessment as well. Which, of course, can be a factor in any sort of large act of public violence. It can be mental health issues as well.

FOSTER: I think a lot of the impression some people might have is that this is -- we keep hearing there's a big Muslim area, but actually, it's a diverse area, isn't it? So if they were targeting an area with a mosque, it may not be targeting, where, generally, in this area, you could say a van going into people wouldn't necessarily be against Muslims.



BLACK: Indeed. I mean this a mixed area, like other parts of London. The key point is the time of day. This was very late on Sunday night. There weren't many people out on the streets, except at this time of year, particularly in areas around mosques as Muslims observe Ramadan.

FOSTER: Right. Right.'

BLACK: Yeah. They're attending prayers, breaking their fast, in the middle of the night, at that time. So these are the people that ultimately were hurt in this incident.

FOSTER: Phil, thank you very much.

We have much more on this because new information coming in all the time, new updates. We're expecting to hear from Theresa May as well after her emergency meeting, so we will have more information. So stay with us. We continue to follow it.