LONDON — The family of the man suspected of ramming a van into Muslim worshipers offered public condolences Tuesday in statements that gave little hint of possible motives behind the latest terrorist strike in London.
The suspect — identified by British media as Darren Osborne, 47 — was heard by witnesses saying that he wanted to kill Muslims. But few other details have emerged on what caused Osborne to drive 160 miles from Wales and point his van at crowds outside two London mosques Monday following late-night prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.
At least 11 people were injured before Osborne was wrestled to the ground and arrested. One man died, but police said it was unclear whether he was killed in the attack or collapsed moments before in the Finsbury Park district.
Osborne’s mother, Christine Osborne, 72, told the Sun newspaper that her son had mental-health problems — which she did not detail — but that he had never expressed any political concerns.
“My son is no terrorist. He’s just a man with mental issues, and I don’t know how to cope with all this,” she was quoted as saying. “As a mum, my heart goes out to everyone in Finsbury Park.”
“We are massively shocked. It’s unbelievable. It still hasn’t really sunk in,” Darren Osborne’s nephew, Ellis Osborne, said in a statement on behalf of the family.
“We are devastated for the families. Our hearts go out to the people who have been injured. It’s madness. It is obviously sheer madness,” he said.
But a neighbor told the Evening Standard newspaper that Darren Osborne had recently appeared drunk and “was cursing Muslims and saying he would do some damage.”
One man, Makram Ali, 51, died at the scene. Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, told Sky News on Tuesday that he believed the death was caused by the attack.
“He was definitely conscious when the car hit the crowd,” Kacimi said. He added that one of the injured was in a coma.
Osborne, who was not on any security watch lists, is believed to have rented a white van near his home in Cardiff, Wales.
The attack may have taken authorities by surprise, but it appeared to substantiate growing dread among London’s Muslims that they could be targeted by extremists who call for “revenge attacks.”
Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, said that the department was treating the incident as a terrorist attack, and promised to deploy extra officers near mosques in the British capital during Ramadan.
“There is something rather depressingly inevitable about this,” said Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a group that tracks anti-Muslim incidents. “Mosques are a visible target, even more so during Ramadan when more Muslims are visible because they wear religious clothing.”
He said that hate crimes against Muslims spike after Islamist-inspired attacks. The week before the suicide bombing in Manchester last month that killed 23 people, Mughal said, his group received 25 reports of hate crimes. The week after, the number shot up to 141.
“The cases are coming in thick and fast,” he said.
“The Finsbury Park situation is itself an indication of how much people unfortunately hate us, only because we are Muslim,” said Mohammad Afzal, chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque.
Muslims in cities around the country “feel the need for safety, particularly from the far right,” he said, adding that his mosque would be taking extra security measures during Ramadan.
Groups such as Hope Not Hate, an anti-extremism organization based in London, have long warned that the threats posed by extreme right-wing groups are not taken seriously enough. Last year, Britain banned National Action, the first right-wing organization to be proscribed under the nation’s Terrorism Act 2000. More than 70 groups, most of them Islamist, have been banned under that legislation.
At a vigil in Finsbury Park on Tuesday evening, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the area’s representative in Parliament, urged the local community to stick together and to challenge people who utter racist remarks.
“Not in an aggressive way. Just politely say to them: ‘You wouldn’t like that said about you; don’t say that about anybody else,’ ” he said as the large crowd applauded.
Writing in Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that Muslims must be made to feel safe and that the government was working to tackle all forms of hate crime.
“Sadly, indicative figures suggest that over half of those who experience hate because of their religion are Muslim. Any hate crime is unacceptable, but this stark figure is something we will not shy away from,” she said.
She challenged critics who said that Monday’s attack was not given the same kind of attention as Britain’s three other recent assaults, writing: “Let there be no doubt this attack is every bit as horrifying as the others we have seen. Our grief is no less raw.”
This was the third attack in London this year involving vehicles, and it came a month after the Manchester bombing.
The attack came days after the first anniversary of the death of Jo Cox, a British lawmaker who was shot and stabbed by Thomas Mair, a man whose house was full of books on white supremacy and Nazism.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Cox’s husband, Brendan Cox, said Monday’s attack was “an awful reminder that we all have a responsibility to do our bit to tackle hatred, no matter what community we come from.”