A man wearing a fake explosive vest has stabbed several people in London, killing two, in what police are treating as a terrorist attack before he was tackled by members of the public and then fatally shot by officers on London Bridge, police and the city’s mayor said.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick said two stabbing victims had died and three injured people were being treated in a hospital.
She said police were working “at full tilt” to determine whether anyone else was involved in the attack.
The violence erupted two-and-a-half years after a van and knife attack in the same area killed eight people, and less than two weeks before Britain holds a national election. The main political parties have temporarily suspended campaigning in London as a mark of respect.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “to the best of our knowledge, the incident has been contained” but that details were still emerging.
Johnson’s office said the prime minister would chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, COBRA, later Friday evening.
Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Neil Basu said the suspect appeared to be wearing a bomb vest but it turned out to be “a hoax explosive device.”
Basu said officers were keeping “an open mind as to any motive.”
Dick, the police chief, said officers were called just before 2 pm to Fishmongers’ Hall, a conference venue at the north end of London Bridge. The pedestrian and vehicle bridge links the city’s business district with the south bank of the River Thames, was reported about 2 pm
Cambridge-based prison-education organisation Learning Together was holding an event there Friday, and the University of Cambridge said it was “gravely concerned” about students, staff and alumni who might have been caught up in the attack.
Minutes after the stabbings report, witnesses saw a knifeman being wrestled to the ground by members of the public on the bridge before armed-response officers shot him dead.
One video posted on social media showed two men struggling on the bridge before police pulled a man in civilian clothes off a black-clad man on the ground. Gunshots followed. Another depicted a man in suit and overcoat holding a long knife that apparently had been taken from the attacker.
Other images showed police, guns drawn, pointing at a figure on the ground in the distance.
Karen Bosch, who was on a bus crossing the bridge, said she saw police “wrestling with one tall, bearded man” and then heard “gunshots, two loud pops.”
She said the man “pulled his coat back which showed that he had some sort of vest underneath, whether it’s a stab vest, or some sort of explosive vest, the police then really quickly moved backwards, away.”
Police confirmed that the man died at the scene.
The mayor praised the “breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted him.”
“They are the best of us,” Khan said.
The prime minister also praised the bystanders, and said anyone who was involved in the attack “will be hunted down and will be brought to justice.”
Cars and buses on the busy bridge were at a standstill after the shooting, with a white truck stopped diagonally across the lanes. Video footage showed police pointing guns at the truck before moving to check its container.
Scores of police, some armed with submachine guns, flooded the area, ushering office workers and tourists out of the area, which is packed with office buildings, banks, restaurants and bars. Staff in nearby office blocks were told to stay inside.
Political leaders expressed shock and sorrow at Friday’s attack.
“We will not be cowed by those who threaten us,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “We must and we will stand together to reject hatred and division.”
The UK’s terror threat was last listed as “substantial” in August 2014; since then it has held steady at “severe,” briefly rising to “critical” in May and September 2017.
© RAW 2019