Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May has condemned as a “sick and depraved terrorist attack”.
Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down after the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament, just metres from entrances to the building itself and in the shadow of the iconic Big Ben clock tower.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said no Australians were affected in the attack, while speaking on the Seven Network’s Sunrise program.
South Australian education minister Susan Close is in London and was walking to Westminster for a meeting when she heard three shots.
Close said the emergency services were extremely well prepared.
“They just swung incredibly smoothly into action and took control,” she told ABC radio.
“It’s apparent it’s been extremely well managed from this end.”
She said it was remarkable how little panic and chaos ensued.
“In fact I feel a little more shaky now at the end of the evening than I was at the time,” she said. “… people just accepted that there was something happening, that we didn’t know what it was and it was best that we clear out.”
A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had “catastrophic” injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip, two Romanian tourists, and five South Koreans were among the casualties.
Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said unarmed policeman Keith Palmer, 48, three civilians and the attacker died. Forty others were injured.
Islamic extremism was suspected in the attack, Rowley said, adding that authorities believe they know the assailant’s identity but would not reveal it while the investigation was ongoing.
The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was “highly likely”.
Speaking outside 10 Downing St. after chairing a meeting of government’s emergency committee, COBRA, May said that level would not change. She said attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.
“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.”
US President Donald Trump was among world leaders offering condolences, and in Paris, the lights of the Eiffel Tower were to be dimmed in solidarity with London.
Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people last year, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.
Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, whose brother was killed in the Bali terror attack in 2002, performed first aid on the wounded police officer, who later died. About 10 yards away lay the assailant.
“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,” Ellwood said. “He had multiple wounds, under the arm and in the back.”
The only image worth sharing today: heroic minister @Tobias_Ellwood trying to resuscitate stabbed policeman pic.twitter.com/F4uze7z2lE
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) March 22, 2017
The attack began early Wednesday afternoon as a driver in a grey SUV slammed into pedestrians on the bridge linking Parliament to the south bank of the River Thames.
Former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski was in a car crossing the bridge when he heard “something like a car hitting metal sheet” and then saw people lying on the pavement.
“I saw one person who gave no signs of life. One man was bleeding from his head. I saw five people who were at least seriously injured,” Sikorski told Poland’s TVN24.
Police said one injured woman was pulled from the river.
The car crashed into railings on the north side of the bridge, less than 200 metres from the entrance to Parliament. As people scattered in panic, witnesses saw a man holding a knife run toward the building.
“The whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben,” said witness Rick Longley. “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.”
Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts said a man in black attacked the police officer before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm into the building.
“As this attacker was 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,” Letts told the BBC.
The attack unfolded near some of the city’s most famous tourist sites, including the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel with pods that overlook the capital. It was halted after the attack, stranding visitors in the pods, with an aerial view of the attack scene.
LONDON ATTACK: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
- Police are treating the deadly attack at Westminster as a terror attack
- Police believe they know the identity of the attacker but are not revealing any more information at this stage
- Five people are dead, including the attacker and a London police officer identified as 48-year-old husband and father Keith Palmer
- The attacker ran down numerous pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, injuring at least 40, some “catastrophically”
- The attacker then ran through gates of Palace of Westminster and stabbed the officer
- He was then shot dead by police
- Parliament was sitting at the time and was put into lockdown
- Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the immediate response to the incident
- The Queen has cancelled postponed plans to open the new Scotland Yard headquarters in London
- No Australians are believed to have been involved
- “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 statement.
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