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Van driver convicted of murder in London mosque attack

A man accused of driving a van into Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque, killing one person and injuring nine others, was found guilty of murder today, after a trial that raised questions about the radicalizing influence of far-right groups in Britain.

The man, Darren Osborne, 48, had denied responsibility for the June 2017 assault near the Finsbury Park Mosque, in north London, though he admitted that he had hoped to kill Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, as well as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, at a different location.

After an eight-day trial at the Woolwich Crown Court, jurors took an hour to declare him guilty both of murder and attempted murder. He is due to be sentenced Friday.

The court heard evidence suggesting Osborne had been radicalized relatively quickly. According to Osborne’s partner, Sarah Andrews, his Islamophobic views developed in the weeks before the attack, as he became convinced that not enough was being done to combat Islamic extremism.

Andrews said Osborne had become “obsessed” with Muslims, particularly after watching “Three Girls,” a BBC dramatization of an abuse scandal in Rochdale, England, in which mostly young, white girls were groomed by men who were mostly of Pakistani heritage.

She said Osborne then dived into the right-wing media sphere and “seemed brainwashed” by his immersion in that world. Devices seized by police showed internet searches for a variety of such sites, including that of the English Defence League, a far-right anti-Muslim group.

Osborne was also found to have received an automated direct message on Twitter from Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, another far-right organization. Some of the group’s videos were retweeted by President Donald Trump last year in an episode that caused outrage in Britain.

During the trial, the court heard that Osborne, who is from Cardiff, in Wales, drove the van into the late-night crowd at Finsbury Park, leading to the death of Makram Ali, 51.

The area had been busy with worshippers attending Ramadan prayers, and though Ali had collapsed just before the attack, several of those who went to his aid said he had been alive and conscious before being struck by the van.

Osborne denied he had been the driver of the van, saying it was driven by “a guy called Dave” who had disappeared from the scene.

But he admitted to an earlier plan to attack a pro-Palestinian march in London, which he and two accomplices believed Corbyn would attend.

Asked in court whether he hoped to kill Corbyn, Osborne replied, “Oh, yeah,” adding, “It would be one less terrorist off our streets.”

He added: “If Sadiq Khan had been there, it would have been even better. It would have been like winning the lottery.”

The Finsbury Park attack came after several other terrorist assaults in England. A month earlier, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people, and the man identified as the bomber, Salman Abedi, had links to the Islamic State. In June, attacks on London Bridge and at Borough Market, also inspired by the Islamic State, killed eight people.

There have been other prominent examples of far-right violence, most notably the 2016 killing of lawmaker Jo Cox by Thomas Mair, a loner with ties to extremist groups.

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