WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
London’s Metropolitan Police have confirmed five people have died with at least 40 injured after an assailant driving a 4×4 vehicle ploughed into pedestrians near the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday (22 March).
Mark Rowley, the national lead for Counter Terrorism Policing and the Acting Deputy Commissioner confirmed the death of a policeman who had been protecting Parliament from the attack, the killing of three pedestrians and the death of the suspected attacker who was shot by a police firearms officer.
He stated the attacks had been declared a terrorist incident and the Counter Terrorism Command is carrying out a full scale investigation into the events.
He narrated the chronology of the attacks: “The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public and three police officers who were on their way back from a commendation ceremony.
“The car then crashed near to Parliament and at least one man – armed with a knife – continued the attack, trying to enter Parliament.
“Sadly – I can now confirm that four people have died. That includes a policeman who was protecting Parliament from the attack and one man we believe to be the attacker who was shot by a police firearms officer.
“The officer’s family have been made aware.
“At least 20 people have been injured.
“As part of long established and well rehearsed plans, Parliament was locked down and the Met responded in line with our plans for a marauding terrorist attack.
“That response included uniformed and specialist trained firearms officers.
“We have an ongoing operation – and whilst we currently believe there was only one attacker – I am sure the public will understand us taking every precaution in locking down and searching the area as thoroughly as possible.
“I know that the officials working within Parliament and the public completely understand why we need to do this and I thank them for their patience and support.
“This investigation has the full weight and expertise of the Counter Terrorism Command behind it. If there are people who saw the events unfold but haven’t yet spoken to police please get in touch with us.
“A crime scene will remain in place in the affected areas in Westminster – it is vital that we carry out a painstaking investigation to recover all possible evidence.
“Looking forward, throughout the rest of the day including when people are commuting home and over the days that follow, the people of London will see extra police officers – both armed and unarmed – out on our streets.
“This includes our officers working longer hours and extra shifts and with our colleagues at British Transport Police and the City of London.
“We can call on the support of the military should we need to at a future point.
“We are also in the process of opening our specialist Casualty Bureau to help those people who are worried that friends or family may have been caught up in the attack.
“We are reaching out and engaging with all communities across London to help reassure them.
“Our strength as a city is our ability to stand together at such terrible times.
“If anyone sees anything suspicious or that causes them concern please do contact us – don’t hesitate.
“My thoughts are with all those who have been affected by today’s attack – and as a service we have lost one of our own as he acted to protect the public and his colleagues.
“This is a day that we had planned for – that we all hoped would never happen – but sadly it is now a reality.
“The Met Police will continue to do all we can to protect the people of London.”
As the incident unfolded eyewitnesses reported seeing a policeman stabbed after an assailant had ploughed through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in an incident police were treating as a terrorist incident. Reuters reporters inside the building heard loud bangs and shortly afterwards a Reuters photographer said he saw at least a dozen people injured on Westminster Bridge, next to parliament.
His photographs showed people lying on the ground, some of them bleeding heavily and one apparently under a bus. The number of casualties was unclear.
“Officers – including firearms officers – remain on the scene and we are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The House of Commons, which was in session at the time, was immediately suspended and lawmakers were asked to stay inside.
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.
The leader of the House, David Lidington, said in the chamber that an assailant who stabbed a policeman had been shot dead by police.
An ambulance helicopter landed on Parliament Square, just outside the building.
The BBC said police believed there was a suspect vehicle outside parliament but police did not immediately confirm that report.
Amid confusing scenes, it appeared the incident may have unfolded in several locations, including on the busy Westminster bridge where tourists take pictures of Big Ben and other attractions.
Reuters reporters inside parliament said a large number of armed police, some carrying shields, were pouring into the building.
US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House he had been briefed on events in London but gave no details.
The incident took place on the first anniversary of attacks on Brussels in Belgium.
Britain is on its second-highest alert 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.
Casualty Bureau is now open on 0800 056 0944 and 0207 158 0010.
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