5 dead in vehicle, knife attack at British Parliament
London — A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage in the heart of Britain’s seat of power Wednesday, plowing a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as a “sick and depraved terrorist attack.”
Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down after the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament, just yards from entrances to the building itself and in the shadow of the iconic Big Ben clock tower. He died, as did three pedestrians on the bridge, and the police officer.
A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had “catastrophic” injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip and two Romanian tourists were among the casualties.
Police said they were treating the attack as terrorism. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said police believed there was only one attacker, “but it would be foolish to be overconfident early on.” He said an unarmed policeman, three civilians and the attacker died. Forty others, including three police officers, were injured.
Islamic extremism was suspected in the attack, Rowley said, adding that authorities believe they know the assailant’s identity but would not reveal it while the investigation was ongoing.
The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was “highly likely.”
Speaking outside 10 Downing St. after chairing a meeting of government’s emergency committee, COBRA, May said that level would not change. She said attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.
Authorities said they were treating the attacks as a terrorist incident. Some of those injured were French high school students, France’s prime minister said.
The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not clear if there was more than one attacker.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who was rushed from the building within minutes, will chair a meeting of the government emergency committee. London Police Commander B.J. Harrington said a full counterterrorism investigation was underway.
The incident in London unfolded within sight of some of the city’s most famous tourist sites, including the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel with pods that overlook the capital. It stopped rotating and footage showed the pods full as viewers watched police and medical crews on the bridge, which has at its north end Big Ben and Parliament, two iconic symbols.
“The whole length of the bridge there were people on the ground,” Richard Tice, a witness, told Sky News. The London Ambulance Service said it had treated at least 10 people on the bridge, and British port officials said a woman was pulled from the River Thames, injured but alive.
“Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal,” she said. Londoners and visitors “will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.”
U.S. President Donald Trump was among world leaders offering condolences, and in Paris, the lights of the Eiffel Tower were to be dimmed in solidarity with London.
London has been a target for terrorism many times over past decades. Just this weekend, hundreds of armed police took part in an exercise simulating a “marauding” terrorist attack on the River Thames.
Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people last year, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.
In the House of Commons, legislators were holding a series of votes on pensions when deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced that the sitting was being suspended and told lawmakers not to leave.
Parliament was locked down for several hours, and the adjoining Westminster subway station was shuttered.
Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, whose brother was killed in the Bali terror attack in 2002, performed first aid on the wounded police officer, who later died. About 10 yards away lay the assailant.
“I tried to stem the flow of blood and give mouth to mouth while waiting for the medics to arrive but I think he had lost too much blood,” Ellwood said. “He had multiple wounds, under the arm and in the back.”
The attack began early Wednesday afternoon as a driver in a gray SUV slammed into pedestrians on the bridge linking Parliament to the south bank of the River Thames.
Ambulances arrived within minutes to treat people who lay along the length of the bridge.
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