KUWAIT CITY, June 19, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent cables on Monday to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May, expressing his stern condemnation of a van attack on Muslim worshippers in London that left one person dead and scores of others injured.
In his cable, His Highness the Amir underscored that Kuwait deplores such violent acts that run counter to humanitarian values, saying that Kuwait supports all measures taken by Britain to uphold its security.
His Highness the Amir also wished all those wounded in the attack a speedy recovery. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables to Queen Elizabeth II and the British Prime Minister.
A van ploughed into worshippers near a London mosque in the early hours of Monday, injuring 10 people, two of them seriously, in what Prime Minister Theresa May said was a sickening, terrorist attack on Muslims. The vehicle swerved into a group of mainly North and West African people shortly after midnight as they left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in Britain.
The driver, a 47-year-old white man, was grabbed at the scene by locals and pinned down until police arrived. The man was not named by police. He was held on suspicion of attempted murder which was later extended to preparing or instigating terrorism, including murder and attempted murder. After being seized, he said he had wanted to kill “many Muslim people,” one witness told journalists.
A man, who had earlier suffered a heart attack, died at the scene but it was not clear if his death was connected to the van attack.
“This morning, our country woke to news of another terrorist attack on the streets of our capital city: the second this month and every bit as sickening as those which have come before,” May told reporters outside her Downing Street office. “This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” said May who later visited the mosque. The attack was the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.
It came at a tumultuous time for the government with Britain starting complex divorce talks with the European Union and May negotiating with a small Northern Irish party to stay in power after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election that backfired. The mosques’ worshippers, mainly from North and West Africa, had just left special prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Usain Ali, 28, said he heard a bang and ran for his life. “When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realised this was a man choosing to terrorise people who are praying,” he told Reuters. “He chose exactly the time that people pray, and the mosque is too small and full, so some pray outside.” Another witness Yann Bouhllissa, 38, said he had been tending an old man who had suffered a heart attack when the van was driven at them. The driver was then seized by locals.
“One guy caught the guy and brought him down,” Bouhllissa told Reuters. “When he was on the fl oor, the guy asked ‘why do you do that?’. He said ‘Because I want to kill many Muslim people’.” Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam from the Muslim Welfare House, stepped in to ensure the van driver was not hurt until he was bundled into a police van. “We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him … and some tried to hit him either with kicks or punches. By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm,” Mahmoud told reporters. “We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle.”
Neil Basu, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing, said restraint shown by locals was “commendable”. In addition to the man who died, 10 people were injured, with eight taken to hospital, two in a very serious condition, police said.
The driver, who Security Minister Ben Wallace said was “not known to the authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism”, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
Police, who believe he was acting alone, were searching addresses in Cardiff, Wales, where the vehicle hire company that the van was rented from is based.
In France, a car loaded with gas canisters rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday, leaving the driver dead in what the interior minister said was an attempted attack. Police sources told AFP that a Kalashnikov rifl e, handguns and gas bottles were found in the white Renault Megane. Video showed orange smoke pouring from the car after the impact as the vehicle sat in the middle of the prestigious avenue which is lined with shops and cinemas. The police and the army have consistently been attacked by extremists in France. “Security forces have been targeted in France once again,”
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, calling the incident an “attempted attack”. The weapons and explosives found in the vehicle “could potentially blow this car up,” he added. Interior ministry spokesman Pierre- Henry Brandet said bomb disposal experts were on the scene to “ensure the vehicle poses no further danger.” Later, the doors of the car and the bonnet were open as it was searched. No police or bystanders were injured in the incident near the Grand Palais exhibition hall. “People were running every which way,” said a 51-year-old bystander who gave his name only as Alexandre. “Some shouted at me to get away.”
Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation. Police closed two of the Metro stations on the Champs-Elysees, but two hours after the attack tourists were back taking selfies of the Arc de Triomphe and visiting shops. Collomb said the attack “shows once again that the threat (of an attack) remains extremely high in France”. The incident came just two months after a policeman was shot and killed on the avenue, days before the first round of France’s presidential election. After that attack, a note praising the Islamic State group was found next to the body of the gunman, Karim Cheurfi, and weapons including a shotgun and knives were found in his car. On June 7, a hammer-wielding Algerian man was shot and wounded by police after he struck an officer on the head in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, shouting it was in revenge “for Syria”. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video found at his home. The attack Monday was the latest of a string in France and Britain.