London Bridge rail and Tube stations remain closed this morning after the latest terrorist atrocity last night.
Most political parties have suspended national campaigning for the second time in a fortnight.
It was not long after 10pm on a Saturday night, when tens of thousands of Londoners will have been out socialising, that three men drove a white van across the bridge, veering into pedestrians with intent to kill and maim. The van came to a halt outside the Barrowboy and Banker pub on the south side of the bridge, the attackers moving into Borough Market’s bar and restaurant area, brandishing foot-long knives, described by some as machetes, randomly stabbing people.
“It’s just like Westminster again,” one eye witness reported. Or Nice. Or Manchester. Or Berlin.
Within eight minutes, the attackers had been shot dead by rapid response armed police, the canisters taped around their bodies confirmed as being bogus, and not explosive devices – their purpose to terrify passers-by, or deter others from confronting them or, indeed, to invite their ultimate fate from the security forces.
Before the end, ordinary Londoners had fought back, hurling beer glasses or pub chairs at the attackers, one black cab driver driving at the attackers to frustrate their assault. Workers in offices in the Shard were locked in, as were pub and restaurant customers for their own safety. The terminus station remained on shutdown, and three hours after the attack began, controlled explosions were heard – probably as the attack vehicle was dealt with.
The attack prompted an outpouring of kindness and sympathy, as in Manchester last month, with cab drivers offering free journeys home and Londoners in and around Borough High Street offering their spare beds and homes as a refuge for those caught up in the attack.
Two Purley residents, Andy Bagnall and Joanne Milligan, were among the many enjoying an innocent night out when the attack began. They were locked in the Arabica Bar and Kitchen for an hour or so.
Bagnall reported what happened on social media. “Having a meal with friends in Borough Market when security suddenly said we needed to shut the door and get away from the windows.
“Everyone panicked and rushed to the back – tables and food and plates going everywhere. We were close to the window and all I could see was what looked like some people fighting. Joanne needed to calm the staff down who were trying to usher people out of the back door on to the street. Everyone hid in the kitchens and upstairs.
“Armed police were there very quickly and told us to stay inside. We heard two heavy bursts of gun fire. After about 45 minutes, the police ushered everyone out and made us run towards Southwark Street. Ran past two people lying on the floor, covered in a lot of blood, being treated by paramedics. The police then began pushing out the perimeter.
“Got to Southwark Station and the contrast was amazing. People still sitting outside pubs enjoying their Saturday night. Have headed to some kind friends in Camberwell for a drink!”
In a statement by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick just after 9am today, it was confirmed that seven people had been killed in the assault, as well as the three attackers, while nearly 50 people had been injured and were receiving treatment at hospitals around central London.
Politicians and community leaders condemned the attack and praised the emergency services – among those injured was a British Transport Police officer who had responded to the incident.
“I am appalled and angered by the terrorist attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, in my home city. These acts of violence were truly shocking and I condemn them in the strongest terms,” said Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting, only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.
“My prayers are with the victims and all those affected. I commend the work of our emergency services working hard to keep us safe and cope with the ensuing carnage. As ever we urge everyone to assist the authorities so that these criminals can be apprehended and brought to justice.”
Len Duvall, the London Assembly Member who leads the Labour group at City Hall, said this morning, “Today our thoughts are with the victims of this atrocious attack and their families.
“I join the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in paying tribute to the wonderful men and women of our emergency services who have, once again, done our city proud. Their bravery and professionalism is an example to the world.
“Though this is a difficult time, and Londoners should remain vigilant, we must carry on with our lives. Mayor Khan is right – Londoners will not be cowed by these murderous acts of terrorism. Those who perpetrate these vile acts cannot and will not ever be allowed to win.”
In a formal statement issued in the early hours this morning, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “We are treating this as a terrorist incident and a full investigation is already underway, led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
“You will understand that our knowledge of the incident is still growing but what we understand at the present time is:
- At 22:08hrs yesterday evening we began to receive reports that a vehicle had struck pedestrians on London Bridge.
- The vehicle continued to drive from London Bridge to Borough Market.
- The suspects then left the vehicle and a number of people were stabbed, including an on-duty British Transport Police officer who was responding to the incident at London Bridge. He received serious but not life-threatening injuries. His family has been informed.
- Armed officers responded very quickly and bravely, confronting three male suspects who were shot and killed in Borough Market. The suspects had been confronted and shot by the police within eight minutes of the first call. The suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but these were later established to be hoaxes.
“The ongoing operation is led by the Met, working closely with British Transport Police, City of London Police, the London Ambulance Service and the London Fire Brigade.
“I’d like to repeat our request for the public to avoid the following areas: London Bridge and Borough Market. This is to allow emergency services to deal with this incident.
“The investigation is being led by the Counter Terrorism Command and we would ask anybody who has images or film of the incident to pass those to police by uploading it at www.ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk.
“Our thoughts are with all those involved and those responding to both incidents. Those who are concerned about a loved one can contact the Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233.
“We are reviewing and planning to strengthen our policing stance across London over the forthcoming days, and there will be additional police and officers deployed across the Capital.
“I would like to ask the public to remain vigilant and let us know if they see anything suspicious that causes them concern and dial 999 immediately.”
Transport updates for those hoping to travel into London today or for work this week can be found on the Transport for London website.
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