UK Authorities Declare British Lawmaker David Amess' Killing a Terrorist Incident

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David AmessCredit: RICHARD TOWNSHEND - AFP

British lawmaker David Amess in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was stabbed to death on Friday in a church by a man who walked into a meeting with voters from his electoral district, police said. The British authorities declared the killing as a terrorist incident early on Saturday. 

Police said a man had been arrested on suspicion of murder. There was no immediate confirmation of Amess' condition, though a colleague said it was serious, and he was being treated at the scene until his death was confirmed.

The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested and a knife recovered.

“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident and do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the wider public," police said.

Sky News and others said Amess was attacked during a regular meeting with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in a residential area of Leigh-on-Sea, a seaside town east of London.

Aerial footage showed several ambulances and an air ambulance were waiting nearby to the church.

John Lamb, a local councilor, said Amess had not been taken to hospital more than two hours after the attack and the situation was “extremely serious.”

Amess, 69, had been a member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997, but has been a lawmaker since 1983. He was a well-liked member of Parliament, best known for his ceaseless campaign to have Southend declared a city.

Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer tweeted that it was “Horrific and deeply shocking news. Thinking of David, his family and his staff.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, tweeted: “Very alarming and worrying news reports coming from Leigh-on-Sea. My thoughts and prayers are with Sir David Amess and his family.”

Violence against British politicians is rare, but in June 2016 Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was fatally stabbed and shot in her northern England constituency. A far-right extremist was convicted of her murder.

Cox's widower, Brendan Cox, tweeted that “Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”

British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside Parliament, but have no such protection in their constituencies. Amess published the times and locations of his open meetings with constituents on his website.

Two other British lawmakers have been attacked this century during their “surgeries,” regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.

Labor legislator Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach and injured in May 2010 by a female student radicalized by online sermons from an al-Qaida-linked preacher.

In 2000, Liberal Democrat lawmaker Nigel Jones and his aide Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man wielding a sword during such a meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones injured in the attack in Cheltenham, England.

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