A knife-wielding man has gone on a deadly rampage in the heart of Britain’s seat of power, ploughing a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a police officer inside the gates of Parliament.
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.
An Australian permanent resident was among those injured in the attack, Attorney General George Brandis told Senate question time on Thursday afternoon.
Mr Brandis said the woman was receiving treatment in hospital and consular staff were providing assistance.
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 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 anyt
hing 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.