London: Multiple casualties were reported when a van ploughed into pedestrians and several people were stabbed in central London in what police called a “terrorist” attack days before a general election. The violence turned a summery Saturday night in an area packed with bars and restaurants into a scene of panic and chaos, with officers running through crowded streets screaming for people to flee and lifeboats drafted to help clear the area.
Here’s what we know so far about the attacks:
– At 10 pm (2:30am IST), police responded to reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on the London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames in central London.
– Soon after, there were reported stabbings at nearby Borough Market, an area full of bars and restaurants. Police said armed officers were sent to the scenes and shots were fired. They did not say if officers fired the shots.
– Police initially said officers were also responding to a reported third incident, in the Vauxhall area of London. But they said later that turned out to be an unrelated stabbing.
– Police said multiple casualties were reported, and British media reported that more than one person had been killed in the rampage. There was no official confirmation yet.
– The Sun newspaper, whose offices are beside London Bridge, reported hearing explosions about three hours after the attacks began. It said the blasts were believed to be controlled explosions carried out by police.
– About two hours after the first reports of an incident, television images showed people walking away from the London Bridge area with their hands on their heads.
– Prime Minister Theresa May said it was a potential act of terrorism and the Metropolitan Police force said it had declared the attacks as “terrorist incidents.”
– Police tweeted a warning telling people in the area to run to safety, hide and then call police if it is safe to do so.
– Phaldip Singh, who describes himself as an entrepreneur and youth activist, tweeted that Sikh Gurdwaras were open to provide food and shelter for those affected by the attacks.
– If confirmed as terrorism, this will be the third attack to hit Britain in as many months. In March, a British convert to Islam ran down people with a vehicle on Westminster Bridge, killing four, then stabbed a policeman to death outside Parliament. On May 22, a British suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured dozens at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. After that attack, Britain’s official threat level from terrorism was raised to “critical,” meaning an attack may be imminent. Several days later it was lowered to “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely. A charity concert for victims of the Manchester attack, featuring Grande and other stars, is due to be held in the northwest English city on Sunday.