Thursday, April 25, 2019
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Westminster attack: Death toll rises to five

Scenes of carnage on Westminster Bridge near parliament as London police investigate 'terrorist incident'.

Westminster Bridge

  • Five killed including police officer and attacker
  • Car rammed into crowds on bridge
  • Man armed with knife killed trying to enter parliament

London police say five people, including the attacker, were killed after a car ploughed into pedestrians and a man went on a stabbing spree before being shot dead close to the British parliament.

London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said investigators suspect "Islamist-related terrorism" was behind Wednesday's attack that also left about 40 people injured.

"Islamist-related terrorism is our assumption," Rowley told journalists.

He said police believed they knew the identity of the attacker but he declined to provide details.   

Rowley said the violence started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of civilians and three police officers on their way back from a commendation ceremony.

The car then crashed close to parliament where at least one man armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter the building. 

The assailant was shot dead after he stabbed a policeman to death.

The other three victims were among those hit by the car as it sped across Westminster Bridge before crashing into railings just outside parliament.

Many people were lying on the ground - some bleeding heavily and apparently unconscious - after the attack, which Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as "sick and depraved".

"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."

Some of the wounds suffered by the victims were described as "catastrophic". One woman was pulled out alive from the River Thames with serious injuries by port authorities.  

Witnesses initially reported multiple attacks near parliament. 

"We saw a black vehicle at full speed and it ran down a number of people. I could see people flying all around," tourist Babi Nagy said. "Immediately it came to mind this was a terrorist attack."

Polish politician and journalist Radoslaw Sikorski posted a video on Twitter of the aftermath on the bridge, showing several injured people lying on the ground.

Another witness said he saw victims scattered along the street.

"As I was walking up the steps, there was a man who had fallen and medics were taking care of him. There was a lady who was also stabbed or shot. There was a lot of blood," Martin Pearce, visibly shaken, told Al Jazeera at the scene.

Security analyst Afzal Ashraf said vigilance by the public and authorities was now necessary.

"One of the features of these forms of attacks is a follow-on attack. They like to have publicity. The potential threat is huge," Afzal said. 

The last major attack to hit London was in July 2005, when a coordinated series of bomb blasts targeted its public transportation system during rush hour. The bombings killed 52 people and wounded more than 700 others. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter that an urgent investigation had been launched. "My thoughts are with those affected and their families," he said. 

International messages of condolence were offered to the United Kingdom.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stood by Britain following the deadly attack.    

"Although the background to these acts are not yet clear, I reaffirm that Germany and its citizens stand firmly and resolutely alongside Britons in the struggle against all forms of terrorism," Merkel said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump offered May the full cooperation and support of the United States in responding to the attack, the White House said in a statement.

In Paris, the lights of the Eiffel tower were switched off. Three French schoolchildren on a visit to London were injured in the attack.

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