A police officer and a woman were killed on Wednesday near the British Parliament complex, in what Scotland Yard are describing as a “terrorist incident”. The woman was among several pedestrians struck by a car on Westminster bridge, before it crashed into railings.
An officer was stabbed in the Houses of Parliament by an attacker, who was shot by police.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not clear if there was more than one attacker.
Police said there were “a number of casualties” and a “full counter-terrorism inquiry” was under way.
Some of those injured were French high school students, France’s prime minister said.
“The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has responded to an incident in the area of Parliament Square and the Senior National Coordinator has declared this a terrorist incident,” Metropolitan Police Commander Ben-Julian Harrington said in a statement.
“Although we remain open minded to the motive, a full counter terrorism investigation is already underway – this is led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command. We know that there are a number of causalities, including police officers, but at this stage we cannot confirm numbers or the nature of these injuries,” he said.
He called on the public to “remain vigilant” and said a review of policing strategy across the city was underway, with additional police officers being deployed across London.
The Indian High Commission in London has set up a special “Public Response Unit” for any Indians caught up in Wednesday’s terror attack.
The incident unfolded this afternoon as a man tried to gain entry into the British Parliament via the main entrance and stabbed a police officer.
Plainclothes armed officers shouted warnings at him before shooting a number of rounds.
He was later seen being covered by blankets, presumed dead.
UK Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the stabbed police officer but said he “died at the scene”.
In a related incident, a speeding grey Hyundai i40 mowed down several pedestrians on Westminster Bridge nearby before ramming into the iron railings of the side of the House of Commons building.
Dozens of injured people were rushed to hospital from the scene and one woman has been confirmed dead by doctors at St Thomas Hospital near Parliament.
One injured woman was seen being rescued from the river Thames by emergency services.
Junior doctor Colleen Anderson from the hospital confirmed the death of the woman and said a number of other people were hurt – some with “catastrophic” injuries.
“There were people across the bridge.
There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic.
Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries.
There were maybe a dozen [injured],” she said.
“We are working closely with other members of the emergency services at the scene, with our priority being to ensure patients receive the medical help they need as quickly as possible. We have declared a major incident and our priority is to assess patients and ensure that they are treated and taken to hospital as soon as possible,” London Ambulance said in a statement.
It remains unclear exactly how many attackers may have been involved in the terror incident.
While initial reports suggest the same knife-man was behind the mowing down of the pedestrians and the attack on the police officer at Parliament.
However, some latest reports indicate as many as two different attackers may have been involved in the terrorist attack.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French school pupils are among the injured and offered “solidarity with our British friends, and full support” for the wounded students and their families.
Commons Leader David Lidington, who suspended the Parliament session as this unfolded outside, told MPs the “alleged assailant was shot by armed police”.
“It seems that a police officer has been stabbed, that the alleged assailant was shot by armed police. An air ambulance is currently attending the scene to remove the casualties,” Lidington said.
“There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster but I hope colleagues on all sides will appreciate that it’d be wrong of me to go into further details until we have confirmation from the police and from the House security authorities about what is going on,” he added.
Witnesses said the attacker was shot by police as he approached a second officer clutching his knife during the incident.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had just completed her weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, was seen being ushered into a car as gunfire rang out at Parliament during the incident.
Downing Street said the PM was “safe” as an emergency services helicopter was seen landing in Parliament Square, which has been cordoned off and closed to traffic.
“The Prime Minister was brought back to Number 10 from Parliament. She is currently monitoring the situation,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
May is to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee later on Wednesday.
MPs and peers were in lockdown inside the Parliament building for an extended period before many of them being walked down across the road to Westminster Abbey.
Workers and members of the public in buildings in surrounding areas were also held up behind the cordoned off area.
A number of schoolchildren were also caught up in the police lockdown of the area.
Tourists on the famous London Eye attraction were among those trapped in the pods as part of the police cordon.
There was chaos in the area as crowds of people were seen running and being pushed back by Scotland Yard officers.
Police helicopters continue to fly over central London area since the incident took place at around 1440 GMT.
In a statement, Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Reports suggest the ongoing incident in Westminster this afternoon is extremely serious.
“Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrific attack, (their) families and friends. The police and security staff have taken swift action to ensure the safety of the public, MPs and staff, and we are grateful to them.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan said his thoughts were with those affected and expressed his gratitude to the city’s police and emergency services who “work so hard to keep us safe and show tremendous bravery in exceptionally difficult circumstances”.