A North London imam who defended an attacker who drove a van into people outside a mosque is being hailed as a hero for saving his life.

Imam Mohammed Mahmoud stepped in to protect the driver of the white van after he hit one person and injured 10 just after midnight on Sunday in Finsbury Park, Islington.

The 48-year-old driver was pinned down by the angry crowd after reportedly yelling "I want to kill all Muslims" in chaotic scenes recorded and posted online.

Mohammed Mahmoud, an Imam at Finsbury Park Mosque, gives a statement to the media at a police cordon in the Finsbury Park area of North London. Photo / AFP
Mohammed Mahmoud, an Imam at Finsbury Park Mosque, gives a statement to the media at a police cordon in the Finsbury Park area of North London. Photo / AFP

Mahmoud said he ran outside the mosque to find the driver on the ground with people trying to kick him.

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"We managed to surround him. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse," he said.

They also flagged a passing police van and bundled the man into the back telling police: "There's a mob attempting to hurt him, If you don't take him, God forbid he might be seriously hurt."

"That's all that we did. It wasn't me alone, there was a group of brothers who were calm and collected enough to calm people down and extinguish any flames of anger that would have taken charge."

Local people observe prayers at Finsbury Park where a vehicle struck pedestrians in London. Photo / AP
Local people observe prayers at Finsbury Park where a vehicle struck pedestrians in London. Photo / AP

Mahmoud said the van was travelling fast enough to knock people sideways and had driven deliberately into the crowd. He also said "all life is sacred" and he hoped the tragedy would unite people and "keep the fabric of this society intact".

Witness Hussein Ali said a crowd had gathered around the attacker before the leaders of the mosque stepped in and told others "you don't touch."

A shopkeeper who was there at the time said the imam had potentially saved his life, such was the anger of the crowd, as people lay bleeding around them.

"The guy was very lucky," he said. "He would have died today, so many people were punching him. If he wasn't there, the guy wouldn't be here today."

Emergency services stand guard on Fonthill road near Finsbury Park station after a vehicle struck pedestrians in north London. Photo / AP
Emergency services stand guard on Fonthill road near Finsbury Park station after a vehicle struck pedestrians in north London. Photo / AP

London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised Mahmoud for calming the situation.

"The Imam Mohammed did a really good job in calming things down," he said. "Justice can be done instead of people taking things into their own hands."

The Muslim Welfare House also praised him, saying: "We would like to particularly thank our Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life.

"All of us at Muslim Welfare House sends our thoughts and prayers to the victims and those injured at Finsbury Park.

"The Muslim Community in this area is horrified and is concerned and shocked at the events.

"We have worked very hard over decades to build a peaceful and tolerant community here in Finsbury Park and we totally condemn any act of hate that tries to drive our wonderful community apart."

Forensic officers move the van at Finsbury Park, where a vehicle struck pedestrians in north London. Photo / AP
Forensic officers move the van at Finsbury Park, where a vehicle struck pedestrians in north London. Photo / AP

It comes as locals fear further attacks in a nation that has suffered four terror attacks in three months including at London Bridge, Manchester and Westminster.

Locals said they feared "hate against hate" breeding in the community.

"I'm scared for my life. I don't know what's going on in London," said the shopkeeper who witnessed the events.

It has also sparked anger from some who claim police were slow to respond in calling it a "terror attack".

Terrorism analyst Michael S. Smith II posted an example of pro-Islamic State message boards on Telegram asking why the attackers were shot in the Borough Market attack but not during this one.

"Oh Muslims you need to wake up the war is now starting in your own streets," says one of the messages.

Security agencies are expected to be on high alert for the last 10 days of Ramadan, which are the most religiously significant, particularly the "Night of Power" on June 21.

The date is otherwise known as Laylat al-Qadr, and marks when verses of the Koran were revealed to Muhammad.