UK mulls tough measures after 7 killed in London attacks
REUTERS photoThree attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing revelers nearby on June 3 night, killing seven people in what Britain called the work of Islamist militants engaged in a new trend of terrorism.
London Metropolitan Police said on yesterday 12 people had been arrested in the Barking district of east London in connection with the attack, which also injured at least 48 people, and raids were continuing there.
The attack occurred five days ahead of a parliamentary election and was the third to hit Britain in less than three months.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the election would go ahead as planned on June 8.
“It is time to say enough is enough,” she said in a televised statement outside her Downing Street office, where flags flew at half-mast.
“We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” May said, calling for a strengthened counter-terrorism strategy that could include longer jail sentences for some offences and new cyberspace regulations.
Less than two weeks ago, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults at a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England. In March, in an attack similar to June 3’s, five people died after a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in central London and stabbed a policeman.
On June 3 night, police shot dead the three male assailants in the Borough Market area near London Bridge within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call shortly after 10 p.m. local time.
Eyewitnesses described harrowing scenes as the attackers’ white van veered on and off the bridge sidewalk, hitting people along the way, and the three men then ran into an area packed with bars and restaurants, stabbing people indiscriminately.
Accounts emerged of people trying to barricade themselves in a pub while others tried throwing tables and other objects to fend off the attackers.
“We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism,” May said.
“Perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots ... and not even as lone attackers radicalized online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.”
She said the series of attacks were not connected in terms of planning and execution, but were inspired by what she called a “single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism” that represented a perversion of Islam and of the truth. She said this ideology had to be confronted both abroad and at home.
“While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is - to be frank - far too much tolerance of extremism in our country,” she said, without elaborating.
U.S. President Donald Trump, taking to Twitter on June 4, urged the world to stop being “politically correct” in order to ensure public security against terrorism.
The three attackers on June 3 night were wearing what looked like explosive vests that were later found to have been fake. May said the assailants’ aim had been to sow panic. The BBC showed a photograph of two possible attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body.
The London Ambulance Service said 48 people had been taken to five hospitals across the capital and a number of others had been treated at the scene for minor injuries.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said some of those who had been injured were in a critical condition. He said the official threat level in Britain remained at severe, meaning a militant attack is highly likely. It had been raised to critical after the Manchester attack, then lowered again days later.
“One of the things we can do is show that we aren’t going to be cowed is by voting on Thursday and making sure that we understand the importance of our democracy, our civil liberties and our human rights,” Khan said.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), losing territory in Syria and Iraq to an advance backed by a U.S-led coalition, had sent out a call on instant messaging service Telegram early on Saturday urging its followers to launch attacks with trucks, knives and guns against “Crusaders” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were among those who sent messages of condolences and made statements of solidarity.
Pope Francis invited thousands of pilgrims who attended mass in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on June 4 to pray for the victims of the London attack.
Four French nationals were among those injured in the London attack, French officials said. Australia said two of its citizens were caught up in it and one of them was in hospital.