THREE attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge last night before stabbing partygoers nearby, killing at least seven people in what Britain said was the work of Islamist militants.
At least 48 people were injured in the attack, the third to hit Britain in less than three months and occurring days ahead of the snap parliamentary election on Thursday.
Police shot dead the three male assailants in the Borough Market area near the bridge within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call shortly after 10.00pm.
‘We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism,’ British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement this morning outside her Downing Street office, where flags flew at half-mast.
‘Perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots and not even as lone attackers radicalised online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.’
She said the Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy needs to be reviewed, adding: ‘It is time to say enough is enough.’
Both the Conservative and Labour parties have suspended national campaigning, but May said campaigning will resume tomorrow and that the election on Thursday will go ahead as planned.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack to hit Britain.
The three attackers were wearing what appeared to be explosive vests, which Scotland Yard later confirmed were hoaxes. May said the assailants’ aim had been to ‘sow panic’.
The London Ambulance Service reported that 48 people had been taken to five hospitals across the capital and several others had been treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Witnesses described a white van careering into pedestrians on the bridge.
‘It looked like he was aiming for groups of people,’ a witness told Reuters. He saw at least six people on the ground after the van veered on and off the pavement. ‘It was horrendous,’ he said.
A taxi driver told the BBC that three men got out of the van with long knives and ‘went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people.’
‘People started running and screaming, and the van crashes into the railing behind. We went towards Borough Market and everyone went inside (the bar),’ another witness told Reuters.
BBC radio said witnesses saw people throwing tables and chairs at the attackers to protect themselves.
It was initially reported that police believed a stabbing in Vauxhall was linked to the events on London Bridge, but Scotland Yard said later it was unrelated.
U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer help to Britain and also to push his demand for tougher screening and an end to immigration, while Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences in a telegram to May.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her sympathy.
‘Today, we are united across all borders in horror and sadness, but equally in determination. I stress for Germany: in the fight against all forms of terrorism, we stand firmly and decisively at the side of Great Britain,’ she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that ‘France is standing more than ever side by side with the UK.’
May is due to chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra security committee later today.
Photo credit: Reuters/ Peter Nicholls