London attack: four dead after rampage outside UK parliament | News | DW | 22.03.2017
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London attack: four dead after rampage outside UK parliament

Police have said four people, including the attackers, have been killed in an attack in London. Some 40 other people are wounded, many seriously. Police are treating the attack as "Islamist-related terrorism."

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London attack: Politicians express solidarity

A knife-wielding attacker plowed a car into a crowd of pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge and stabbed a policeman to death outside the British Parliament on Wednesday. Four people are confirmed to have been killed, including the attacker, and around 40 more were injured in the deadly rampage. Authorities said they suspect that "Islamist-related terrorism" was behind an attack.

Police on Wednesday had said five people were killed in the attacks but later revised the death toll.

The assailant was shot by police just yards away from the entrance to Parliament under the iconic Big Ben clock tower, moments after he had stabbed the officer. He died, as did the officer and two pedestrians on the bridge. Doctors on the scene described some of the injuries as "catastrophic."

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as "sick and depraved," adding that the UK would not give in to terror. "We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."

May insisted that Parliament resume on Thursday as normal. 

Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down inside Parliament for several hours in the wake of the attack. The prime minister was near the House of Commons at the time of the attack, and security officers swiftly ushered her back to her residence in Downing Street.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that the police would deploy additional officers on the city streets to keep locals and tourists safe.

"We stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life. We always have, and we always will," Khan said. "Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism."

Identifying casualties

Among the casualties struck on Westminster were three French teenagers on a school trip from the Brittany town of Concarneau, as well as two Romanian tourists, each country's respective Foreign Ministry confirmed.

The police officer who died has been identified as Keith Palmer, aged 48.

Mark Rowley, Britain's most senior counterterrorism officer, told reporters that authorities had "declared this as a terrorist incident and the counterterrorism command are carrying out a full-scale investigation into the events today."

Rowley also said police believed they knew the identity of the attacker, thought to be the sole perpetrator but declined to provide further details. As of Wednesday night no group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Wednesday's incident occurred a year to the day of the terror attacks in Brussels, in which Islamists killed 32 people. The manner of the vehicle attack also echoed last year's terror incidents in Nice and Berlin.

It was also the deadliest terror attack in London since Islamists killed 52 people in a series of suicide bombings on the British capital's transport system in July 2005.

Eyewitness accounts

Several eyewitnesses reported that a man dressed in black left the crashed car and ran towards the entrance to Parliament holding a knife. After getting past a gate into the fenced-in New Palace yard area just under the shadow of Big Ben, the assailant stabbed the policeman. He was then shot two or three times by officers as he tried to storm the building.

An eyewitness who declined to be named told DW that he was traveling by bus towards Westminster Bridge when the driver ordered all passengers to disembark. 

"I walked off the bus and saw someone laid down by the side with tourist guidebooks around them," he said. "As I walked along I saw more bodies on the ground, and people holding each other. I saw about 12 on the ground, laid out, and the next guy's leg is all broken and to the side."

Quentin Letts, a journalist at the British "Daily Mail" newspaper, told the BBC that as he saw the attacker running towards the entrance, "two plain-clothed guys with guns shouted at him what sounded like a warning, he ignored it and they shot two or three times, and he fell."

Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski witnessed the attacker plow into the crowd of pedestrians as he was crossing Westminster Bridge in a taxi. He uploaded a video of the incident to Twitter.

Sikorski later told the BBC that he had "heard what I thought was just a collision, and then I looked through the window of the taxi and [saw] someone down, obviously in great distress.

"Then I saw a second person down, and I started filming. Then I saw three more people down, one of them bleeding profusely."

Among the heroes in the aftermath of the attack was Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, who performed first aid on the wounded officer who later died. Ellwood's brother had been killed in the Bali terror attack in 2002.

"I tried to stem the flow of blood and give mouth to mouth while waiting for the medics to arrive, but I think he had lost too much blood," the Tory politician said. "He had multiple wounds, under the arm and in the back."

World reacts

Leaders around the world have expressed their solidarity with the United Kingdom. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she learned of Wednesday's attack "with sorrow" and that her thoughts were "with our British friends and all of the people of London."

Merkel also affirmed Germany's commitment to the fight against terror in light of Wednesday's attack. "I want to say for Germany and its citizens: We stand firmly and resolutely by Great Britain's side in the fight against all forms of terrorism," she said.

"We are all concerned with terrorism," French President Francois Hollande told reporters during a visit in Villepinte, just outside of Paris. "France, which has been struck so hard lately, knows what the British people are suffering today."

Hollande added that the French government had flown the families of the three wounded schoolchildren out to London to be with their loved ones.

Paris' Eiffel Tower went dark on Wednesday night in mourning for the people that were killed in the attack.

In the US, the White House condemned the attacks and applauded "the quick response of British police and first responders." President Donald Trump is said to be monitoring developments, although the US Homeland Security Department said the country's security posture had not changed in the wake of the attack.

dm/jr (AP, Reuters)