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Ordinary Londoners demonstrated “breath-taking heroism” in disarming a knife-wielding attacker who injured several people and killed one in Friday’s incident at London Bridge, mayor Sadiq Khan said.
Police shot dead the man who had strapped a fake bomb to his body and stabbed a number of people in what they said was a terrorism incident. Videos on social media showed a crowd of people who had tackled the man to the ground, before being ushered away by police. Medical sources have told the Guardian that one of the attack victims now died.
Police shot the suspect dead. Khan said the incident is being “treated as though it is terrorism-related.”
Videos showed what appeared to be three police officers backing away from the man, presumed to be the attacker. After one last man is dragged off the attacker, two officers are then seen pointing high-powered rifles at the suspect. After he moved a final time, the attacker was then shot dead.
Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu said it had initially been feared the attacker was wearing a suicide vest, but this is now thought to have been a hoax vest. He said in a statement:
“I can confirm that at approximately 2pm today Friday the 29th of November. Police were call to a stabbing at a premises near to London Bridge EC1. Emergency services attended including officers from the City of London police and the Metropolitan Police.
“A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from the City of London police, and I can confirm that this suspect died at the scene.
“A number of other people received injuries during this incident. As soon as we can provide further updates on their condition we will. And our heartfelt sympathies go out to everybody who’s been involved in this and is anxiously waiting for information on their loved ones. As soon as we can get that information we will get it to you.”
Mayor Khan said:
“What’s remarkable about the images we’ve seen is the breath-taking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them. Members of the public didn’t realize at the time that was a hoax device, and they really are the best of us.”
Witness Kirsten Jones told the BBC she was on a bus going over the bridge which “came to a sudden stop because there were people running across the road.”
“It looked like there was a fight going on, there were people tussling with one each other and then I realized it was police wrestling with one tall, bearded man.”
London’s ambulance service said it had declared it a major incident and they had sent several crews to the scene.
Sky reported five casualties in the incident, citing police sources. The BBC reported that police had responded to the scene in a reactive manner, rather than heading to the scene because they had received any prior intelligence.
The bridge was locked down, as armed officers closed off the famous landmark and evacuated passers-by.
Videos and photographs on Twitter showed several police cars and buses on the bridge and a truck straddling several lanes.
The London Ambulance Service said it responded to the incident and had crews attending the scene, according to a post on its Twitter feed. Separately, Transport for London said it closed the bridge in both directions.
The U.K. is set to hold a general election on Dec. 12. The election campaign in 2017 was interrupted by terrorist attacks — including one on London Bridge. In June 2017 three militants drove a van into pedestrians on the bridge, and then attacked people in the surrounding area, killing eight people.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he was being kept updated on the incident.
“I’m being kept updated on the incident at London Bridge and want to thank the police and all emergency services for their immediate response.”
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his thoughts were with those caught up in the “shocking” incident.
“Shocking reports from London Bridge,” Corbyn said on Twitter. “My thoughts are with those caught up in the incident. Thank you to the police and emergency services who are responding.”
In a statement provided to the Guardian, London Mayor Khan had earlier said:
“The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that as a precaution the horrendous incident at London Bridge is being treated as though it is terrorism-related.
“I remain in close contact with the Metropolitan Police and am being kept updated with events. It has been confirmed that people were injured in the attack. My heart goes out to them, their families and all affected.
“Thank you to our brave emergency services who responded to today’s horrific attack. Every day they put their lives on the line for us – running towards danger in order to keep London safe.
“We must – and we will – stay resolute in our determination to stand strong and united in the face of terror. Those who seek to attack us and divide us will never succeed.”
Earlier this month, Britain lowered its national terrorism threat level to “substantial” from “severe,” its lowest level since 2014.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time, according to the BBC: “Substantial continues to indicate a high level of threat, and an attack might well occur without further warning. As ever, the public should remain vigilant and report any concerns they may have to the police.”
Britain reviews its terror threat level every six months, the BBC reports.
The Guardian’s Vikram Todd reported that the shooting dead of the suspect “will now be investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Under the law they have to examine all police shootings and they will investigate independently.”
— with files from National Post staff