Two Dead, Three Wounded in Terror Attack at London Bridge; Attacker Killed by Police

British police shot the suspected attacker who had strapped a fake bomb to his body at the site, which was the scene of an attack by Islamic militants two years ago

Police and emergency vechiles gather at Leadenhall near London Bridge in central London, on November 29, 2019 after reports of shots being fired on London Bridge.
AFP

British police on Friday shot dead a man wearing a fake suicide vest who stabbed two people to death in London and wounded three more before being wrestled to the ground by bystanders, in what the authorities called a terrorist attack.

The attacker went on the rampage just before 2 P.M. (1400 GMT), targeting people at Fishmongers' Hall near London Bridge in the heart of the city's financial district – the scene of a deadly attack by Islamist militants two years ago.

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Police named the attacker as 28-year-old Usman Khan, who had been previously convicted of terrorism offences and released from prison last year.

"This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences," said Britain's top counter-terrorism police officer Neil Basu in a statement.

"He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence and clearly, a key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack."

A person who is released on licence is subject to conditions for the duration of their sentence after leaving prison. The Times newspaper reported that Khan had agreed to wear an electronic tag.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said sentences should be served.

"It is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early, and it is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists," he said.

Once the attacker was out on the street, a dramatic video posted on Twitter captured the moment when half a dozen bystanders tackled the suspect on London Bridge and grabbed his knife.

The video showed police dragging one man off the suspect before an officer took careful aim. Two shots rang out. The man stopped moving.

Johnson, who has called a snap election for Dec. 12 and is due to host NATO leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump next week, praised those who took on the man for their courage and said Britain would never be cowed.

"I ... want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others," Johnson told reporters in Downing Street.

"For me they represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all of our country," Johnson said. "This country will never be cowed, or divided, or intimidated by this sort of attack."

He said the incident was now thought to have been contained and vowed that anyone else involved would be hunted down. He later chaired a meeting of the government's emergency security committee.

Top counter-terrorism officer Basu said specialist armed officers from the City of London police shot the suspect, who died at the scene. He said a hoax explosive device was strapped to his body.

Police said in a statement they were not actively seeking any other suspects in relation to the attack, but were carrying out searches at an address in Staffordshire Friday overnight.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson's main opponent in the election, said he was shocked by the incident and that his thoughts were with those caught up in it.

Campaigning has been temporarily suspended.

Kicked in the head

Commissioner Dick said the attacker launched his assault at Fishmongers' Hall, a grand building at the northern end of the bridge.

One of those who confronted the attacker there told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he had kicked him in the head to make him drop the knife.

Stevie Hurst, who gives tours of the capital, said he and a colleague took on the suspect with about five others.

"I jumped in and kicked him in the head to make him release his knife. A few others did so," he told the Telegraph. "He was shouting 'get off me, get off me'."

As three armed police officers circled the suspect in the shadow of the Shard skyscraper, western Europe's tallest building, one bystander in a suit and tie grabbed the knife and swiftly retreated as police engaged.

The city's mayor Sadiq Khan said ordinary Londoners had demonstrated "breath-taking heroism" in disarming the knife-wielding attacker despite him having a device which they did not know to be a hoax.

"What's remarkable about the images we've seen is the breath-taking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them," Khan told reporters.

The ambulance service declared a "major incident" in the area and London Bridge station, a busy commuter hub, was closed for a number of hours.

Previous attacks

During the 2017 election campaign, London Bridge was the scene of an attack when three militants drove a van into pedestrians and then attacked people in the surrounding area, killing eight and injuring at least 48.

Islamic State said its fighters were responsible, but the British authorities have cast doubt on those claims.

The month before, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester, as crowds began leaving a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande.

In March the same year, an attacker stabbed a policeman close to London's parliament buildings after a car ploughed into pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge.

Six people died, including the assailant and the policeman he stabbed, and at least 20 were injured in what police called a "marauding terrorist attack".

Earlier this month, Britain had lowered its national terrorism threat level to "substantial" from "severe", its lowest level since 2014.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.