5 people dead in terrorist attack at British Parliament

Updated March 22, 2017 - 4:49 pm

LONDON – The number or people who died in an attack close to Britain’s parliament on Wednesday has risen to five after the death of a third member of the public, police said.

Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer Mark Rowley told reporters that police believed the attacker was inspired by Islamist-related terrorism. Rowley said police believed they knew the identity of the attacker but he declined to provide details.

Rowley said some 20 people were wounded and Parliament was locked down.

Rowley said the dead policeman was one of the armed officers who guard Parliament. The other victims were on Westminster Bridge.

Rowley says “We are satisfied at this stage that it looks like there was only one attacker. But it would be foolish to be overconfident early on.”

The dead included the assailant and the policeman he stabbed, while the other two victims were among the pedestrians hit by the car as it tore along Westminster Bridge before crashing into railings just outside parliament.

“We’ve declared this as a terrorist incident and the counter-terrorism command are carrying out a full-scale investigation into the events today,” Rowley said.

“The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers.

“A car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man, armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter parliament.”

A policeman was stabbed, an assailant shot and several other people injured in what police said they were treating as a terrorist incident.

 

Another police officer was among the people killed in the attack just outside the parliament building, the BBC reported, quoting a lawmaker who provided medical assistance.

The officer died at the scene, the BBC said.

There were conflicting reports about the number of assailants involved.

Police were still searching for one of the two people believed to have launched Wednesday’s attack outside the British parliament building, assistant editor of the Daily Telegraph newspaper Christopher Hope tweeted, citing senior government sources.

A BBC journalist said two assailants were believed to have been in a vehicle involved in the attack.

“BBC understands from multiple sources two assailants in vehicle on Westminster Bridge,” BBC correspondent Dominic Casciani said on Twitter.

A woman was been pulled from the River Thames alive after the attack on the Westminster Bridge, the Port of London Authority said, adding that she was being treated for serious injuries.

“A female member of the public was pulled from the water near Westminster Bridge, alive, with serious injuries,” a PLA spokesman told Reuters.

“She’s undergoing very urgent medical treatment now.”

He added that the river had been closed to all non-emergency traffic in the immediate area.

A doctor says one woman died and about a dozen people were hurt after a vehicle apparently hit pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

“There were people across the bridge,” said Colleen Anderson of St. Thomas’ Hospital. “There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries.”

A Reuters photographer saw at least a dozen people injured on Westminster Bridge and photographs showed people lying on the ground, bleeding heavily. The number of casualties was unclear.

The incident unfolded within sight of some of the city’s most famous tourist sites, including the LondonEye, a large Ferris wheel with pods that have views over 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 LondonEye tweeted a while later that passengers were disembarking.

Police say they are treating the incident as a terrorist incident until they know otherwise.

During a press conference at Scotland Yard, police Commander BJ Harrington said a full counterterrorism investigation is underway.

The House of Commons, which was in session at the time, was immediately suspended and lawmakers were asked to stay inside.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Scotland’s parliament suspended its debate on authorizing the government to seek a new independence referendum after Wednesday’s attack on Britain’s Houses of Parliament which police said they were treating as a terrorist incident.

The suspension was announced by the speaker of Holyrood, Ken Macintosh.

Scottish lawmakers had been planning to vote after two days of debate on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for another referendum on leaving the United Kingdom.

The debate was suspended after some members said it should be halted out of respect after a policeman was stabbed and his attacker shot in London.

Sturgeon tweeted that her thoughts were with everyone in Westminster “caught up in this dreadful incident.”

 

Prime Minister Theresa May was safe after the incident, a spokesman for her office said. He declined to say where May was when the attack took place.

May chaired a meeting of the government’s crisis response committee.

“The thoughts of the PM and the government are with those killed and injured in this appalling incident, and with their families,” her office said in a statement.

“The location of this attack was no accident,” she said in a statement outside her Downing Street office late in the evening.

“The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.”

Any attempt to defeat those values through violence was “doomed to failure,” May said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there would be additional police officers on the city streets to keep Londoners and visitors safe.

“We stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life. We always have, and we always will. Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism,” he said.

Parliament’s lower House of Commons, which was in session at the time, was suspended and lawmakers were asked to stay inside.

In a telephone call with May, President Donald Trump offered Britain the full cooperation and support of the United States, the White House said. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the attack as “horrific acts of violence.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were among foreign leaders who expressed shock and solidarity.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said three French high school students are among the wounded in the attack in London. A French government plane is set to fly to London Wednesday evening to bring the families of the French students wounded in the attacks to their loved ones.

In a tweet Wednesday, Cazeneuve offered support to the British as well as to “the French students wounded, their families and their schoolmates.”

London is a common destination for French school trips.

Five South Koreans were injured in the chaos that ensued when the attacker plowed into pedestrians, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Three women and one man in their 50s and 60s suffered injuries including broken bones, the ministry said. Another woman in her 60s suffered a head injury while falling and was taken to a hospital and was receiving surgery.

There was no word on the seriousness of the injuries.

The five were being treated at two hospitals, and South Korean consular officials were on site to assist them, the ministry said. A text message to South Korean nationals visiting Britain has been sent advising precaution following the attack, it said.

The U.S. State Department said it was closely monitoring the “concerning situation” near to Britain’s Houses of Parliament and offered to assist in any way.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner urged Americans in London to contact their families to let them know they are safe.

“We stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance should we become aware of any affected U.S. citizens,” he said in a statement.

The leader of the House, David Lidington, said in the chamber that an assailant who stabbed a policeman had been shot by police.

“It seems that a police officer has been stabbed, that the alleged assailant was shot by armed police,” Lidington said.

“An air ambulance is currently attending the scene to remove the casualties.

“There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster but I hope colleagues on all sides will appreciate that it’d be wrong of me to go into further details until we have confirmation from the police and from the House security authorities about what is going on.”

WITNESS ACCOUNTS

Witness Rick Longley told the Press Association that he saw a man stab a policeman outside Parliament.

“We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out,” he said.

“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben.

“A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.

“I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.”

London Ambulance Service released a statement saying it has sent “a number of resources to the scene including ambulance crews, London’s Air Ambulance and our Hazardous Area Response Team.”

George Eaton, a journalist with the New Statesman, said that from the window of Parliament’s Press Gallery, he saw police shoot a man who charged at officers.

“A large crowd was seen fleeing the man before he entered the parliamentary estate,” he wrote on the publication’s website. “After several officers evaded him he was swiftly shot by armed police.”

British lawmaker Grant Shapps said on Twitter that he was walking through the cloisters of the House of Commons to vote when he heard four gunshots. Police told lawmakers to get down on the ground and crawl to cover.

“Police response instant. Heard commotion, looked round. Police weapons drawn, 4 shots, police ordered us to hit ground & get back, get back,” he said.

Reuters reporters inside parliament said a large number of armed police, some carrying shields, were pouring into the building.

New York police ramped up security at British sites across the city on Wednesday after an assailant stabbed a policeman outside Britain’s parliamentand was then shot by police.

Heavily armed officers and explosives-detecting dogs were deployed to locations including the British Consulate and the British Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan, senior New York Police Department officials said at a news conference.

“You’ll see a larger presence of the dogs at these locations, as well as (officers) armed with the long guns,” said James Waters, the police department’s counterterrorism chief.

The incident took place on the first anniversary of attacks on Brussels in Belgium.

Britain is on its second-highest level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

In May 2013, two British Islamists stabbed to death soldier Lee Rigby on a street in southeast London.

In July 2005, four British Islamists killed 52 commuters and themselves in suicide bombings on the British capital’s transport system in what was London’s worst peacetime attack.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information.

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