An attacker spread chaos in the heart of London for several hours on Wednesday as he went about first plowing a car into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge and later stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of the British Parliament. The assailant, treated as a terror suspect, was later gunned down by an armed officer. Five people, including the attacker and the police officer, were killed. Three of them were pedestrians run over on the bridge. At least 40 people have been injured, some of them with ‘catastrophic injuries.’
British Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident as a ‘sick and depraved’ attack on democratic values. “Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal,” she said. Londoners and visitors “will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.” She also chaired a meeting of COBRA, the government’s emergency committee.
Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said the security force will treat the attack as a terrorist incident although no group has claimed responsibility for it. He said the police were determining whether the attacker was working alone or as part of a group.
After plowing the SUV into the group of pedestrians, witnesses told Associated Press that they saw the attacker rushing out of the car and running towards the Parliament building with a knife in his hand. The car was parked less than 200 yards from the entrance to the building.
“A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman. I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw,” Rick Longley, a witness, told AP.
48-year-old Keith Palmer was named as the officer killed in the attack. He had been with the force for 15 years and was married with children.
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Parliament was under lockdown for several hours as the attacker rushed to the gates of the building. Even though he was shot down, police feared more attacks and restricted lords, lawmakers and staff to inside the complex.
Several world leaders including prime minister Narendra Modi and US president Donald Trump condemned the attack and offered support to the UK.
“Deeply saddened by the terror attack in London. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. At this difficult moment, India stands with UK in the fight against terrorism,” PM Modi wrote on Twitter. Trump said he spoke with PM May and offered condolences on behalf of the US government.