March 22 (UPI) — Four people, including a police officer and an assailant, died Wednesday in what London police say they are treating as a “terrorist incident” near the Houses of Parliament.
The incident began around 2:40 p.m. in the Westminster area of central London when an attacker drove a vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. The vehicle then crashed into a fence at the Houses of Parliament, at which point the attacker exited the vehicle and fatally stabbed an officer, police said during a press conference.
Police opened fire on the attacker, killing him. Two pedestrians died on the bridge and at least 20 people were injured.
Authorities placed the legislative building and surrounding area, including Westminster Bridge, on lockdown in the minutes after the attack. Those areas were later evacuated.
London Metropolitan Police Cmdr. B.J. Harrington told reporters there are a “number of casualties, including police officers,” but he was unprepared to give a specific number or comment on the severity of injuries.
“Officers — including firearms officers — remain on the scene and we are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command is leading the investigation, Harrington said.
He said Craig Mackey, the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was at the scene of the incident and is being considered a “significant witness.”
Within minutes of shots being fired, eight armed undercovered police rushed British Prime Minister from Parliament to a waiting vehicle.
March 22 (UPI) — What’s being labeled a “terrorist attack” rattled central London Wednesday, left four victims dead and preceded a hasty evacuation of Prime Minister Theresa May nearby at the central nerve center of Britain’s legislative government.
The incident began around 2:40 p.m. in London’s Westminster district when the attacker drove a sport-utility vehicle into pedestrians on a bridge.
Moments later, the 4×4 crashed into the front gates at the Palace of Westminster, where the assailant jumped out and stabbed a police officer, authorities said. The suspect was shot dead on the spot by nearby police before he could enter the building. His identity was not immediately known.
“Two plain clothes guys with guns shouted at him what sounded like a warning, he ignored it and they shot two or three times and he fell,” witness and journalist Quentin Letts said.
Both U.K. parliamentary houses — the House of Commons and House of Lords — meet at the Palace of Westminster. It is commonly called the Houses of Parliament.
“Police officers were running with machine guns, and there was a man down right next to the car,” Bradford Buck, a visitor from Connecticut, told BBC News.
“We saw loads of people ducking down,” witness George Nuth told NBC News. “Police or security were telling people to run. A policeman said to us, ‘Stop dawdling if you don’t want to get shot.'”
“We were walking up Embankment heading towards Parliament, and then there were lots of people starting to run towards us,” New Yorker Bill Kearns, in London to visit his lawmaker nephew, said. “We tried to get a hold of our nephew straight away. We were worried about him, texting him … and he said, ‘Get away from Parliament as fast as you can.'”
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Within minutes of the attack, eight armed undercover police officers rushed May from Parliament to a waiting vehicle.
Investigators believe the suspect acted alone in the assault, which occurred on the one-year anniversary of an attack in Belgium that killed 32 people.
“The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our national capital,” May said outside her Downing Street residence, calling the attacker “sick and depraved.”
“The location of this attack was no accident.”
Authorities placed the parliamentary building and its surrounding area, including Westminster Bridge, on lockdown in the moments after the attack. Those areas were also later evacuated.
Metropolitan Police said it had deployed extra officers around London Wednesday as a precaution.
“This is a day that we planned for but hoped would never happen. Sadly it has now become a reality,” Asst. Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said.
“Today, London suffered a horrific attack,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a video statement. “My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and to everyone who has been affected.
“I want to reassure all Londoners and all our visitors not to be alarmed. Our city remains one of the safest in the world. … And we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life.”
“He pledged the full cooperation and support of the United States Government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice,” the statement said.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said some high school students visiting London from France were injured in the attack.
Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command is leading the investigation, officials said, adding that British Parliament will meet Thursday as scheduled.