LONDON: Seven people are confirmed to have died in an attack by three assailants who drove a van at pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in the nearby Borough Market area, London’s Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick said on Sunday.
“It has now been confirmed sadly that seven members of the public have died. In addition, as you know, we believe, three suspects are dead,” she said in a televised statement.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 4, 2017
Dick said police believed the incident was under control, but officers needed to conduct a thorough search of the area to ensure everyone was accounted for and no further suspects were at large.
“Our priority now is to work with our colleagues in the national counter-terrorism police network and also with the intelligence agencies and other security services to establish more details about these individuals who carried out the attack and the background to it,” she said.
Forty-eight people have been taken to the hospital, the London Ambulance Service said on Sunday.
— London Ambulance (@Ldn_Ambulance) June 4, 2017
“We took 48 patients to five hospitals across London and treated a number of others at the scene for minor injuries,” the LAS said in a statement on Saturday night’s attack.
The injured included a British Transport Police officer who was one of the first responders on the scene and was stabbed in the face and leg.
Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the “terrible incident in London” was being treated as “a potential act of terrorism.” She will hold an emergency ministerial meeting later on Sunday and Facebook activated its safety check function for people in London to let their loved ones know they are safe.
Police said the three men were shot by a police armed response team within eight minutes of receiving the first call at 2108 GMT.
Dozens of emergency vehicles could be seen and a wide area around London Bridge was cordoned off as two helicopters hovered overhead.
The attack came just five days ahead of a general election and just minutes after the end of the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus in an area teeming with bars where many fans were watching the football on television.
“They were stabbing everyone. They were running up and going ‘This is for Allah’,” a man called Gerard told the BBC, adding that he had seen the assailants stabbing a girl and had tried to confront them.
Another witness called Eric told the BBC he had seen three men come out of the white van after hitting pedestrians and thought they were going to help.
But instead they “started kicking them, punching them and took out knives. It was a rampage really,” he said, adding that he also heard a shout of: “This is for Allah”.
Britain is on high alert only 12 days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester, north-west England and ahead of Thursday’s general election, in which security is a major theme.
It is the latest in a string of attacks to hit Europe, including in Paris, Berlin and Saint Petersburg.
Witnesses described the van speeding into several pedestrians on London Bridge and then one or more knife-wielding men sprinting towards bars packed with revellers enjoying a Saturday night out.
One witness described seeing as many as five assailants and several people said they were ordered to stay inside pubs and restaurants by police and eventually had to come out with their hands on their heads.
Italian photographer and documentary maker Gabriele Sciotto, who was watching the football at the Wheatsheaf pub in Borough Market, said he saw three men shot just outside the pub.
In his picture, a man wearing combat trousers, with a shaved head and what looked like a belt with canisters attached to it could be seen on the ground with two more bodies behind him.
“In two or five seconds, they shot all the three men down,” Sciotto told the BBC.
The attack had harrowing echoes of the one on London’s Westminster Bridge when 52-year-old British Muslim convert Khalid Masood rammed his car into pedestrians before crashing into the barriers surrounding parliament and then stabbing a police officer to death. Masood was shot dead by a ministerial bodyguard.