UPDATED with Prime Minister Theresa May’s remarks:
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May this evening confirmed three people and the perpetrator had been killed in today’s attack in London. May, who had been quickly evacuated from Parliament when an unidentified man with a knife rushed the government complex after mowing down more than a dozen pedestrians on adjacent Westminster Bridge, paid special tribute to those who protected her and who rushed to assists victims on the bridge.
“For those of us who were in Parliament at the time of this attack, these events provide a particular reminder of the exceptional bravery of our police and security services, who risk their live to keep us safe,” May said in her address. “Once again today, these exceptional men and women ran towards the danger, even as they encouraged others to move the other way.
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“On behalf of the whole country, I want to pay tribute to them, and to all our emergency services for the work they have been doing to reassure the public and bring security back to the streets” of London, she said.
These streets of Westminster, home to worlds’ oldest parliament are ingrained with a spirit of freedom that echoes in some of the furthest corners of the globe,” May continued. “And the values our Parliament represents – democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law – command the admiration and respect of free people everywhere. That is why it is a target for those who reject those values.”
She assured Londoners that Thursday morning, “Parliament will meet, as normal” and the city will go about its day “as normal… and we will all move forward together, never giving in to terror.”
Hours earlier, cable news networks in the United States pulled away from Day 3 of Supreme Court hopeful Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, with word May had been evacuated from Parliament after an attack on the complex adjacent bridge.
Four people, including the suspect, are dead and 20 injured in the attack, which began when an unidentified man mowed down pedestrians on the bridge and crashed his SUV into the fence surrounding the government complex. The attacker, armed with two knives, then rushed an entrance gate on foot, stabbed an officer, and got to within yards of the Houses of Parliament before being shot by armed officers.
The officer at the gate also is among the dead.
A doctor from St Thomas Hospital, which sits on the other side of Westminster Bridge across from the Houses of Parliament, confirmed that one woman had died, and many others had “catastrophic injuries.” French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French students were among the injured in a tweet that, translated, read: “Solidarity with our British friends terribly stricken, full support to the injured French students, their families and their comrades.”
About two hours after the incident, Scotland Yard Commander BJ Harrington announced the London Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey is being treated as a “significant witness” to the attack because he was at scene when the attack occurred. He is not injured, but it would be inappropriate for him to have presided over the presser, Harrington explained to reporters who had expected to see Mackey.
Police first received a number of different calls from people reporting a person in the River Thames, a car injuring people, and a man with a knife, Harrington reported. He declined to discuss the number of casualties except to say it included police officers. (The Port of London Authority said one woman had been pulled from the River Thames with very serious injuries.)
While authorities remain “open minded as to motive,” a terrorist investigation is underway, Harrington said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement, saying “We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference.”
Additional police have been deployed throughout the city, Harrington said. Additional armed security were stationed at May’s London home at 10 Downing Street, CNN’s Nick Robertson reported; NBC News confirmed May has returned to her residence. Sky News reported May planned to hold an emergency meeting tonight, bringing together law enforcement, counter-terrorism experts and intelligence officials, to discuss how to proceed.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer opened Wednesday’s briefing discussing the attack; President Trump has spoken by telephone with May, Spicer said, adding that a read-out of the call would follow. The UK government has “the full support of the US government in responding to the attack and bringing those to justice who are responsible,” Spicer told reporters.
The incident occurred on the one-year anniversary of the ISIS attack in Brussels, in which 32 were killed and more than 300 injured in three coordinated bombings at the airport and a metro station, executed by the same cell that orchestrated earlier Paris attacks.
London Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard announced shortly after the attack that they are treating this as a terrorist incident until more is known, widening the lock-down area and telling locals to be on the highest state of alert and vigilance until the still-fluid situation is fully contained. More than two hours after the incident, hundreds of MPs still were in lock-down in the Houses of Parliament; press also were in lock-down in the government complex, Politico’s Charlie Cooper told CNN from on site.
Broadcast nets, starting with NBC News’s Lester Holt, jumped in to cover, as cable news networks showed photos of a vehicle crashed into a fence that surrounds the government building, and reported “dozens of people” have been injured, citing journalists in the area. May was seen being bustled by four burly men into a silver Jaguar as gunfire rang out.
According to BBC News, Sky News and major UK news sites, Scottish Parliament has been suspended for the day. Scottish MPs were expected to debate today on calling for a second independence referendum. The debate was expected to begin at 5.30 PM local time and would see Scottish Parliament formally take requests on fresh talks for a vote.
Moments after word of the attack got out, Reuters, which had photographer on the scene, reported two people on the ground on Westminster Bridge near Parliament, bleeding heavily. A dozen armed officers were inside Parliament, including one who was stabbed inside the complex; the assailant has been shot. May was in Parliament when the violence erupted, according to early blanket coverage by UK’s BBC, BBC News, Sky News, ITV and Channel 4.
“It sounds like this was an attack with guns and remember, in Britain [firearms] are very tightly controlled. It’s not just somebody who has lost their mind, a psychopath,” Bob Baer, CNN’s intelligence and security analyst told Wolf Blitzer as that cable news network broke into its planned programming to cover the attack, at around 10:59 AM ET. “I would say right now, I could be wrong, it was an organized well well planned terrorist attack. first reports are always corrected later on but that’s the way it sounds to me.”
According to eyewitnesses, the black SUV drove over the bridge at around 2:40 PM local time, appearing to mow down several people on the bridge, and continued until it hit the barrier surrounding Parliament. Witnesses initially said they saw about 10-12 people lying on the bridge.
Diana Lodderhose and Nancy Tartaglione contributed to this report.
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