London is deploying 600 extra, armed police to join the existing 2,200 firearms officers in the face of 'all manner of threats.' But most of the UK capital's 31,000 police officers are not armed.
Launching the initiative with London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan, Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said "you need firearms officers who will use force to stop those attackers."
"Anyone who's been following events in Europe over the past few weeks will understand why we want to show our determination to protect the public," Hogan-Howe said.
"In some of our big iconic locations, we've already got armed patrols - if you look at Parliament, Downing Street - so it's not entirely new," he said. "I think people understand that where you are going to have people as enemies who've got guns, we've got to have guns."
Khan told reporters that while Britain's "severe" threat level remained unchanged, "in light of recent deadly attacks in Europe it is important we are prepared should the unthinkable happen," he said ahead of the initial police deployment on Thursday.
"We will see more armed officers on our streets, but there is no reason to be alarmed," Khan said. "All of our police officers are playing their part and working closely with all of our communities to prevent the possibility of an attack."
Early on Thursday morning, the BBC reported that one person had died and five more had been injured in a knife attack in London's Russell Square. The assailant was reported to have been tasered and arrested. Police said they were considering terrorism as one possible motive.
Securing the Channel
At the same time, France is bolstering security on land and at sea and on has started airdropping armed, military officers from a helicopter onto ferries crossing the English Channel.
The missions only involve French ferries sailing in French waters until an agreement under discussion with British authorities is signed.
"This could be within weeks," Lieuteant Pierre Joachim Antona, spokesman for the local maritime authority in Cherbourg said. Such an agreement would allow French military officers to board ferries directly from English ports, he said.
Ferries also travel from French continental ports to the Mediterranean island of Corsica and to North African countries such as Algeria and Tunisia.
France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 12,500 reservists have joined police to support extra security measures. The 10,000-strong Sentinel Operation of extra personnel will continue to patrol French streets and sensitive sites such as airports and train stations.
jbh/jm (dpa, AP)