Hours after seven people were killed in London Bridge and Borough Market attack on Saturday night, the Metropolitan Police said that twelve people have been arrested in connection with the incidents. The police said that all the arrests took place in Barking area of east London. According to the police “a number of addresses” in Barking were still being searched. In a statement issued by the police, it said, “Officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command have this morning, Sunday 4 June, arrested 12 people in Barking, east London, in connection with last night’s incidents in London Bridge and the Borough Market area. Searches of a number of addresses in Barking are continuing.”
According to Reuters, four women with their faces covered were seen being taken out of a building in east London by the police. The women were escorted by officers into the back of two waiting police vans and then driven away.
On Saturday night, in a third terror attack since March in England, a white van swerved off the road and mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge, killing seven people and injuring 48. The van then drove to the Borough area and three armed men jumped out of the vehicle and began attacking people with knives. The three suspects were then shot dead by the police. The police are treating the incidents as terrorist attacks.
The Saturday night attack occurred five days ahead of a parliamentary election. Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Theresa May said the election would go ahead as planned on Thursday. “It is time to say enough is enough,” she said in a televised statement outside her Downing Street office, where flags flew at half-mast. “We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” May said, calling for a strengthened counter-terrorism strategy that could include longer jail sentences for some offences and new cyberspace regulations.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said some of those who had been injured were in a critical condition. He said the official threat level in Britain remained at severe, meaning a militant attack is highly likely. It had been raised to critical after the Manchester attack, then lowered again days later. “One of the things we can do is show that we aren’t going to be cowed is by voting on Thursday and making sure that we understand the importance of our democracy, our civil liberties and our human rights,” Khan said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were among those who sent messages of condolences and made statements of solidarity.
Angela Merkel said she was saddened and dismayed by the attack in London and that Germany stood by Britain’s side in the fight against terrorism. “Today, we are united across all borders in horror and sadness, but equally in determination,” Merkel said in a statement. “I stress for Germany: in the fight against all forms of terrorism, we stand firmly and decisively at Britain’s side.”
US President Donald Trump sent a flurry of early morning tweets in the wake of the London attacks, criticizing the city’s mayor and bemoaning what he says is political correctness when it comes to national security. In the final tweet in his morning series, Trump noted that the London attackers used a van to slam into pedestrians and then assaulted people with knives. Did you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the “cruelty and cynicism” of the London attack and called for greater joint efforts in the fight against terror, the Kremlin said. “Putin expresses his profound condolences for the British people and condemns the terrorist attack carried out hours ago in London,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies. “This crime shocks with its cruelty and cynicism,” the Russian leader was quoted as saying later in a telegram to British Prime Minister Theresa May. “The Russian president expressed his certainty that the common response to what has happened should be an increase in combined efforts in the fight against the forces of terror around the world,” the Kremlin said.
Pope Francis invited thousands of pilgrims who attended mass in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday to pray for the victims of the London attack.
Iran said the London attacks were a “wake-up call” and urged Western states to go after ideological and financial sources of terrorism, state media reported, in a thinly veiled reference to Saudi Arabia. “Repeated blind terror attacks around the world are a wake-up call for the world community,” the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying. “To uproot terror, it is necessary that they (Western states) address the root causes as well as the main financial and ideological sources of extremism and violence, which are clear to everyone,” Qasemi was quoted as saying by Press TV.
The three attackers on Saturday night were wearing what looked like explosive vests that were later found to have been fake. The BBC showed a photograph of two possible attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body. London Bridge is a major transport hub and nearby Borough Market is a fashionable warren of alleyways packed with bars and restaurants that is always bustling on a Saturday night. The area remained cordoned off and patrolled by armed police and counter-terrorism officers on Sunday, with train stations closed. Forensic investigators could be seen working on the bridge, where buses and taxis stood abandoned.
Eyewitness Mark Roberts, a 53-year-old management consultant, told Reuters, “It looked like he was aiming for groups of people. It was horrendous.” He saw at least six people on the ground after the van veered on and off the pavement. Then the knife-wielding assailants took their attack to the nearby Borough Market, where survivors described a hellish scene in an area packed with people enjoying a night out in bars and restaurants.
Gerard Vowles told Sky TV that he was on the street near the Southwark Tavern pub, the scene of multiple stabbings, when he heard someone say, “I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been stabbed.” “I thought they were joking,” he said. He said he then saw a woman and man being stabbed while the attackers shouted: “This is for Allah”, and recalled how he tried to distract the men.
“As they left I was going “Oi, oi, cowards!” Vowles said. “I was just trying to get their attention by throwing things at them … I thought if I throw bottles or chairs they can come after me. If I can get them to come to the main road then the police can stop them, they can obviously shoot them.”
Other witnesses reported seeing a man with a large blade, similar to a kitchen knife, and victims bleeding from stab wounds. They said people were fleeing the area in panic. One witness, who only gave the BBC his first name of Ben, said he saw a man dressed in red who was stabbing a man with a blade that appeared to be about 10 inches long. “He was being stabbed quite coldly and he slumped to the ground,” he said of the victim. The attacker then walked towards Southwark Tavern where a chair was thrown towards him, shortly before gunshots rang out.
with Reuters inputs