British police arrest eight people after ‘depraved’ terrorist kills three and wounds 40 in London attack
Attacker is shot dead after mowing down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then stabbing police officer
British police arrested eight people in armed raids Thursday linked to the deadly “Islamist-related” attacks the day on the symbol of the country’s democracy.
Britain’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley also said police have revised down the number of victims from Wednesday’s rampage to three from four. Some 40 people were wounded.
“We have searched six addresses and made seven arrests,” Britain’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley told reporters in London.
He said the raids included locations in London and the central city of Birmingham.
Watch: eyewitness account of London terror attack
Defiant British MPs meanwhile vowed to return to work as normal after the lightning attack on the iconic parliament building in the shadow of Big Ben.
Authorities worked around the clock to piece together what happened when carnage was sown in the heart of London as the attacker ran down several pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge then charged at a policeman at the parliament gates, stabbing him to death with a large knife.
Armed officers shot the attacker dead but not before he had killed two members of the public, a man and a woman, and the 48-year policeman guarding the seat of British political power in the deadliest attack in the country since 2005.
“It is still our belief... that this attacker acted alone yesterday and was inspired by international terrorism,” Rowley said.
The police have said they believe they know the identity of the attacker but will not reveal it “at such a sensitive stage in our investigation”.
Rowley also said that 29 people were treated in hospital. The police had said on Wednesday that around 40 people were injured.
A young Chinese woman is among the injured, reports said.
“Sadly seven of them are in a critical condition,” Rowley said.
Press Association news agency photos believed to be of the knifeman lying on an ambulance stretcher showed a burly man with black clothes and a beard.
Other pictures showed a knife on the cobblestones inside the vehicle entrance gates to parliament, while three shots were heard ringing out on video footage as terrified passers-by fled.
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “sick and depraved”.
“The location of this attack was no accident,” she said in a statement outside her 10 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.
Watch: video shows moment of London attack
It was the deadliest attack in London since four British Islamists killed 52 commuters and themselves in suicide bombings on the city’s transport system in July 2005, in London’s worst peacetime attack.
Hong Kong’s Immigration Department has not received requests for assistance from Hongkongers in London.
The attack took place on the first anniversary of attacks by Islamist militants that killed 32 people in Brussels.
Reporters inside parliament during Wednesday’s attack heard loud bangs and shortly afterwards saw the knifeman and the stabbed policeman lying on the ground in a courtyard within the gates of parliament.
The dead police officer was identified as Keith Palmer, 48, with 15 years of service.
A Reuters photographer saw at least a dozen people injured on the bridge. His photographs showed people lying on the ground, some of them bleeding heavily and one under a bus.
A woman was pulled alive, but with serious injuries, from the Thames, the Port of London Authority said. The circumstances of her fall into the river were unknown.
Three French schoolchildren aged 15 or 16 were among those injured in the attack, French officials said.
Five South Korean tourists were wounded, Seoul’s foreign ministry said, while the Romanian government said two of its citizens were also injured.
A Portuguese man was hurt, the country’s government said, while a seriously injured woman was rescued from the River Thames following the incident.
Several members of parliament (MPs) and senior officials were caught up in the chaos. Tobias Ellwood, a junior Foreign Office minister, was pictured attempting to resuscitate a man lying unconscious, reported to be the stabbed policeman.
— George Freeman MP (@Freeman_George) March 22, 2017
A car on Westminster Bridge has just mowed down at least 5 people. pic.twitter.com/tdCR9I0NgJ
— Radosław Sikorski (@sikorskiradek) March 22, 2017
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 the building for several hours.
May said parliament would convene as normal on Thursday in a sign that the attack would not disrupt life in the capital.
However, a visit by Queen Elizabeth to officially open the new headquarters of London’s police force, which had been planned for Thursday, was postponed “in light of today’s events,” Buckingham Palace said.
In a telephone call with May, President Donald Trump offered Britain the full cooperation and support of the United States, the White House said. US 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.
Eyewitnesses described scenes of panic during the attack.
“I just saw a car go out of control and just go into pedestrians on the bridge,” said Bernadette Kerrigan, who had been on a tour bus on the bridge, in an interview with Sky News.
“As we were going across the bridge, we saw people lying on the floor, they were obviously injured. I saw about 10 people maybe. And then the emergency services started to arrive. Everyone was just running everywhere.”
Former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who witnessed the attack from a taxi as he crossed the bridge, said he saw five victims and made a video of the scene.
“I heard something that sounded like a small car crash. Then I looked out of the window and saw that there was one person lying on the asphalt,” he said.
“I did not see the face of the person lying on the asphalt, but the person was not moving, it was not showing any signs of life. One of the men I saw, his head was bleeding very badly. But the person I filmed - no, that person was not showing any signs of life.”
“The whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben,” said witness Rick Longley.
“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.”
— Liam Edwards (@LiamPLEdwards1) March 22, 2017
Journalist Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail newspaper told LBC radio that he had witnessed the stabbing of the policeman and the shooting of the assailant from his office in the parliament building.
“He (the assailant) ran in through the open gates ... He set about one of the policemen with what looked like a stick,” Letts said.
“The policeman fell over on the ground and it was quite horrible to watch and then having done that, he disengaged and ran towards the House of Commons entrance used by MPs and got about 20 yards or so when two plain-clothed guys with guns shot him.”
In Edinburgh, the Scottish parliament suspended a planned debate and vote on independence as the news from London came in.
Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.
The most recent deadly attack in London to be treated as a terrorist incident was in May 2013, when two British Islamists stabbed to death soldier Lee Rigby on a street.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters, The Guardian