The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has confirmed that two members of the public have died and a further three were injured in a stabbing attack at London Bridge in the City of London district of London this afternoon. The London Ambulance Service has declared the attack, which saw at least 5 people violently stabbed, a major incident. Metropolitan Police has branded the incident a terrorist offence.
Just three and a half weeks earlier, the UK threat level was lowered from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’, due to assessments from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre that deemed that an attack was likely, rather than highly likely because of a relative decline in terrorist activity.
It was a bright and crisp winter afternoon in London today. Black Friday during the festive season at that, just days before a much anticipated General Election. The city was rammed with Christmas shoppers, commuters leaving work early for weekend drinks or their journey home, and tourists enjoying the capital’s extravagant Christmas displays. Then panic and chaos struck, and once again again a major bridge in Central London was closed due to a terrorist incident which involved knives and a fake bomb. Large parts of London remain cordoned off, and with an increased armed police presence.
A city that in recent times hasn’t appeared to slow down due to endless political drama, the Brexit chronicles and climate change protests stopped at exactly 13:58 when police received the call that an unknown bearded male, dressed all in black, had began randomly stabbing people inside Fishmongers’ Hall.
Fishmonger’s Hall is a a conference and banqueting venue at the north end of London Bridge. At least one women was stabbed in the hall.
The venue was hosting the fifth anniversary of Learning Together, an initiative launched by two Cambridge University academics that aims to bring together professionals from the criminal justice sector and higher education. Dozens of people were in attendance, including students from University of Cambridge colleges and former prisoners.
The attacker then appeared to have moved on to London Bridge, where he was tackled and disarmed by heroic members of the public. Astonishing footage shared on social media recorded the attacker lying on the pavement outside Fishmongers’ Hall, further up London Bridge, after being challenged by passers-by. City of London police officers arrived at the scene at 14:03.
Shocked witnesses at Fishmongers’ Hall were ushered away in a bus commandeered by police, all the surrounding buildings were then evacuated by armed officers and specialist teams.
Sources say that there was no prior intelligence of any such incident happening, police subsequently reacted to the events of the day as they unfolded.
Cars and buses on the busy bridge stood still, with a white lorry being stopped diagonally across the lanes. Video footage showed police officers pointing guns at the lorry before moving to check its container.
Passengers filming from the inside of a bus halted on London Bridge saw armed officers with weapons. A struggle ensued on the bridge between the police, members of the public assisting the police and the attacker. Another man, in a suit, could be seen running away from the attacker having apparently retrieved a large and menacing knife. The police then pulled away a man who was wrestling the suspect and opened fire. Eyewitnesses report hearing two consecutive gunshots, after which the suspect pulled his jacket back slightly to reveal an explosive device strapped on to a vest.
The attacker had been wrestled to the ground and disarmed by heroic individuals, before being shot by specialist armed officers who fired two shots at the suspect, killing him at the scene.
Metropolitan Police have also released a statement, detailing that the explosive device on the suspect was in fact a hoax device. It was perhaps worn by the suspect as a way to deter the police from attempting to disarm him.
Sources have since revealed that the suspect was a former prisoner, who had been convicted of a terror offence but had been released, although he was still serving his license period. According to the PA news agency, the suspect was known to authorities and had connections to Islamist terror groups. These revelations have opened up discussion regarding the rehabilitation of prisoners.
The casualties were taken to the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, one of the capital’s four designated major trauma centres. Of the injured people, one is critical but stable, a second is stable and a third has less serious injuries, according to the head of the NHS, Simon Stevens. Thus far none of the victims identities have been released to the general public.
Eyewitness reports have since flooded in regarding the incident.
Bus driver Mustafa Salih, was travelling from Borough High Street towards London Bridge when he first saw emergency service vehicles. Salih told BBC London, “a police officer came up to me and said ‘turn off your engine, get off and run’, I looked up and I could see a crowd of people coming towards me, one woman was crying. It was all very scary as we did not know what was happening.”
The Prime Minister has paid tribute to the extraordinary bravery of the ordinary people and the emergency services who helped tackle the knife-wielding attacker, describing them as, “the very best of our country.” He also expressed that the country will never be divided by this sort of attack, and that our British values will prevail. The Prime Minister has since assured the public that any accomplices will be hunted down and brought to justice.
Mr Johnson cancelled his appointments of the day to focus on the response.
This evening a spokesman for the University of Cambridge stated, “we are gravely concerned at reports that University of Cambridge staff, students and alumni were caught up in the incident at London Bridge. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected.”
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has stated, “what’s remarkable is the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them.”
Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, Neil Basu has stated, ”Counter Terrorism Command are now leading this investigation. I must stress, however, that we retain an open mind as to any motive.” Basu has appealed for anyone with images or footage of the incident to share it on the police image appeal website.
This evening, the Prime Minister chaired an emergency Cobra committee meeting.
The shooting of the suspect will now be investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. By law, it has to examine all police shootings. A full blown terrorist investigation is also underway. Counter terrorism detectives will be working around the clock to identify the victims and help their families. They intend to establish exactly what happened this afternoon and if anyone else was involved.
The attack bore a chilling resemblance to the Borough Market attack in 2017, five days before that year’s General Election.
The shocking incident brings back the horrors of the 2017 terrorist attack on London Bridge, and the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. Tonight many will relive the distress of those dark episodes of terror.