UK police arrest 12 after London Bridge attack
LONDON // British police arrested 12 people in the east London suburb of Barking just hours after three attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then went on a stabbing rampage in nearby Borough Market.
The assailants killed seven people and injured at least 48 in the space of about eight minutes on Saturday night before they were shot dead by police. Twenty-one of the injured are in critical condition.
The terror attack was the third on a British city in as many months. A lone assailant carried out a similar assault on Westminster Bridge in March that left five people dead and, less than two weeks ago, a suicide bomber killed 22 people after a pop concert in Manchester.
The UAE on Sunday warned citizens about travelling to Britain in view of the recent attacks and told Emiratis already in the UK to avoid public places. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said its warning was based on an assessment of risks and threats.
The UAE Embassy in Britain confirmed earlier that there were no Emirati casualties in Saturday’s attack.
The identities of those killed on Saturday has not been made public but France and Canada confirmed that one of their citizens was among the dead.
Prime minister Theresa May, who is up for re-election on Thursday, vowed to step up her government’s fight against terror after the latest attack.
“Enough is enough,” Mrs May said. “When it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change ... There is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”
Mrs May’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, said the three attackers were “radical Islamic terrorists,” and that their backgrounds were investigated. Since the main perpetrators had all been killed, Ms Rudd said, the country’s terror threat level would remain at “severe” and not be increased to “critical”, as happened after the Manchester bombing.
The police response to the attack was swift. Officers arrived at the scene within minutes and fired as many as 50 rounds at the attackers, who were wearing what were later found to be fake explosive vests. A passer-by was wounded.
By 7am on Sunday, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terror Command had surrounded a block of flats in Barking, east London, where one of the attackers is believed to have lived with his family.
“Searches of a number of addresses in Barking are continuing,” a police spokesperson said.
The identities of the suspects were not released, although neighbours of the suspect in Barking referred to him as “Abbs” in press interviews.
“He’s lived here for about three years,” Damien Petit, a neighbour, told the Press Association. “He’s one of our neighbours. I’ve said hello in passing on more than 50-60 occasions. He has two young kids, he was a very nice guy.”
Mr Pettit said his neighbour owned a pair of camouflage trousers similar to those worn by one of the attackers.
Britain’s counter-terrorism police chief, Mark Rowley, said the force was making significant progress in identifying the three attackers, but needed to establish whether others were involved in the planning.
He also said security arrangements for forthcoming events were being reviewed and that there would be additional police, both armed and unarmed, deployed across the capital.
“You will also see increased physical measures in order to keep the public safe on London’s bridges,” Mr Rowley said.
Saturday’s attack began with a white van – hired from a rental service – ploughing into pedestrians on London Bridge around 10pm.
Witnesses said the van was driven at up to 80kph across the bridge, a major arterial route spanning the River Thames. Up to 20 “walking wounded” were given emergency first aid at a hotel near Liverpool Street station.
A taxi driver named Chris told LBC radio: “I didn’t see the van mount the kerb, but I saw everything else.
“A van came from London Bridge itself, went between the traffic light system and [was] rammed towards the steps. It knocked loads of people down.
“Then three men got out with long blades, 12 inches long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random. I saw a young girl stabbed in the chest.”
A man responsible for pub security in Borough Market told the BBC that he and colleagues threw chairs at men trying to stab people. He was told four victims were stabbed in one pub and added that he personally saw one young woman fall to the ground after being knifed.
Another witness, Alex Shellum, said a young woman staggered into the Borough Market pub where he was with his girlfriend and friends, her wounds suggesting her throat had been cut. A man called Gerard who narrowly escaped injury said he saw a young woman stabbed 10 to 15 times.
The main opposition leader, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, said Saturday’s attacks were “brutal and shocking incidents”, adding: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, described the attacks as deliberate, cowardly and barbaric.
The attacks came just 12 days after a suicide bomber named Salman Abedi murdered 22 people, including children, at the end of a concert by the American pop singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena. Abedi, born in Manchester to Libyan parents, has since been linked to ISIL.
In March, Khalid Masood, a British convert to Islam, drove a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed a policeman as he breached the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster before being shot dead by another officer. Four of those struck by Masood’s hired vehicle also died.
Although ISIL has sought to present both Abedi and Masood as its “soldiers”, there is no other immediate evidence of a direct link between the three terrorist attacks of recent months. Eleven of the 17 people arrested in connection with the investigation into the Manchester bombing are still in custody.
Ms Grande returned to Manchester on Sunday night to perform in a benefit concert for victims. She was photographed on Friday visiting injured young fans in hospital.
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Updated: June 5, 2017 04:00 AM