Seven dead in London terror attack as van mows down pedestrians and people stabbed

Terror struck at the heart of London for the second time in less than three months on Saturday night when a white van smashed into pedestrians on London Bridge before three attackers jumped out and started stabbing people.

Armed police arrive at The Shard in Britain’s capital  following a terror attack on London Bridge. Niklas Halle’n / AFP Photo
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LONDON // Seven people were killed and 48 injured when a careering white van mowed down pedestrians in the heart of London and attackers randomly stabbed people there and in a busy nearby street.

The attack on Saturday night was the second time in less than three months that terror struck the UK capital and came just 12 days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester.

Scotland Yard said in Sunday's early hours that three male attackers had been shot and killed by police marksmen in Borough Market, an area dotted with pubs and restaurants popular among Londoners and tourists alike.

The men had jumped from the van and used long knives to stab people after the first incident on London Bridge.

Prime minister Theresa May strongly condemned the attack, saying: “enough is enough”.

Speaking in a televised statement in front of her Downing Street office, Mrs May said the recent attacks were not connected but were all bound by the “single evil ideology” that says western values are incompatible with Islam.

She called for tougher measures at home as “terrorism breeds terrorism” and attackers copy each other.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley praised the speed and courage shown by his officers in their response to the emergency.

He said the suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but that “these were later established to be hoaxes”.

Mr Rowley added: “We believe three people were involved but we still have some more inquiries to be 100 per cent confident of that.”

Counter-terrorism police later anounced that 12 people had been arrested in connection with attack from the Barking area of east London.

“Searches of a number of addresses in Barking are continuing,” they said.

The Daily Mail newspaper’s website reported that the attackers shouted “this is for Allah” as they stabbed people and that as the area of the follow-up police operation expanded, 50 officers with dogs had stormed a neighbouring Tube station, Monument.

Armed police were on the scene within minutes of first reports of the attack at 10.08pm local time. Footage distributed on social media appeared to show officers confronting a shouting, agitated man.

In other film, police were seen entering bars in Borough Market and yelling at customers to drop to the floor for their own safety.

Several of those stabbed were attacked as the suspects went from bar to bar and targeting passers-by in the street. Some of the wounded are in critical condition.

Scotland Yard said early on Sunday that the attacks had been declared “terrorist incidents”.

The London Ambulance Service confirmed 48 people were taken to hospital and others were treated at the scene. One of the injured was a British Transport Police officer, wounded as he responded to the initial events. Mr Rowley said his injuries were serious but not life-threatening.

A man responsible for pub security in Borough Market told the BBC he and colleagues threw chairs at men trying to stab people. He was told four victims were stabbed in one pub and added that he personally saw one young woman fall to the ground after being knifed.

Another witness, Alex Shellum, said a young woman staggered into the Borough Market pub where he had been with his girlfriend and friends, her wounds suggesting her throat had been cut. A man called Gerard who narrowly escaped injury said he saw a young woman stabbed 10 to 15 times.

Others witnesses said five or six people appeared to have been hit by the van which was driven at up to 80 kph across the bridge, a major arterial route spanning the River Thames. Up to 20 “walking wounded” were given emergency first aid at a hotel near Liverpool Street station.

A taxi driver named Chris told LBC radio: “I didn’t see the van mount the kerb, but I saw everything else.

“A van came from London Bridge itself, went between the traffic light system and [was] rammed towards the steps. It knocked loads of people down.

“Then three men got out with long blades, 12 inches long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random. I saw a young girl stabbed in the chest.”

Wording on the side of the van used in the attack showed it was available for hire on an hourly basis.

Britain’s national parliamentary election will go ahead on Thursday, said Mrs May, leader of the Conservative party who is currently fighting a general election campaign.

“As a mark of respect the two political parties have suspended our national campaigns for today, but violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process, so those campaigns will resume in full tomorrow and the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday,” she said.

The main opposition leader, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, said Saturday’s attacks were “brutal and shocking incidents”, adding: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, described the attacks as deliberate, cowardly and barbaric.

The attacks came just 12 days after a suicide bomber Salman Abedi murdered 22 people, including children, at the end of a concert by the American pop singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena, 335 kilometres north-west of the British capital. Abedi, born in Manchester to Libyan parents, has since been linked to ISIL.

In March, Khalid Masood, a British convert to Islam, drove a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed a policeman as he breached the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster before being shot dead by another officer. Four of those struck by Masood's hired vehicle also died.

The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack as “cowardly and depraved” and Muslim community leaders have also deplored the Manchester outrage.

Although ISIL has sought to present both Abedi and Masood as its “soldiers”, there is no other immediate evidence of a direct link between the three terrorist attacks of recent months. Eleven of the 17 people arrested in connection with the investigation of the Manchester atrocity are still in custody.

Ariana Grande has returned to the city to perform in a benefit concert for victims to be held at on Sunday night and was photographed on Friday night visiting injured young fans in hospital.

British security agencies say several planned attacks have been foiled in recent months, many involving home-grown extremists. But counter-terrorism officials warn that with thousands of potential militants being monitored, the threat of further attacks is constant. The use of vehicles to ram pedestrians had become a common feature of ISIL-inspired terrorism in Europe and is particularly difficult to prevent.


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* additional reporting from Associated Press and Reuters