Britain arrests seven in raids over deadly parliament attack
LONDON: British police arrested seven people in armed raids Thursday linked to the deadly “Islamist-related” attack outside parliament in which three people were killed and the assailant was shot dead.
Britain’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley also said 29 people were treated in hospital, including seven who are still in critical condition, following Wednesday’s assault on the symbol of the country’s democracy.
“We have searched six addresses and made seven arrests,” Rowley told reporters, adding that the raids included locations in London and the central city of Birmingham.
“It is still our belief… that this attacker acted alone yesterday and was inspired by international terrorism,” he said.
Rowley said the victims were a police officer stabbed to death by the attacker at the gates of parliament and two members of the public who were mown down by his car on nearby Westminster Bridge moments before, revising down an earlier toll of four victims.
Among the injured were three French school children and a number of foreign tourists.
‘Sick and depraved’
Defiant British MPs vowed to return to work as normal in the parliament building that lies in the shadow of Big Ben but the area remained closed off to traffic and was virtually empty.
Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack in the heart of London as “sick and depraved” in a defiant address on Wednesday.
Helicopters circled over the area and a blue forensics tent was in place where the assailant died. Where the policeman was killed, there was blood on the ground.
Defence Minister Michael Fallon told BBC radio that Wednesday’s carnage was linked to “Islamic terrorism in some form”.
Hundreds of extra police were on patrol and officers worked around the clock to piece together what happened in the deadliest attack in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transport system in July 2005.
The British flag over parliament flew at half-mast.
“What we will do is continue as the House of Commons. We will not give in to terrorism,” deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle told reporters.
Press Association news agency photos believed to be of the knifeman lying on an ambulance stretcher showed a burly man with black clothes and a beard.
Other pictures showed a knife on the cobblestones inside the vehicle entrance gates to parliament, while three shots were heard ringing out on video footage as terrified passers-by fled.
‘Never giving in to terror’
Standing outside her Downing Street residence after an emergency cabinet meeting, May said Britain’s alert level would remain unchanged at level four, or “severe”.
“We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart,” said May, who was dressed in black and whose voice was thick with emotion.
The prime minister was in parliament at the time of the attack and was ushered away in a silver car as gunfire rang out.
Queen Elizabeth II postponed her appearance on Thursday to open the new headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police and London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called a candlelit vigil on Trafalgar Square later in the day.
The attack came a year to the day after Islamic State militants killed 32 people in twin bomb attacks in Brussels and after a series of deadly assaults in Europe that had spared Britain — until Wednesday.
Parliament was locked down for several hours and police evacuated hundreds of MPs and visitors to nearby Westminster Abbey and the police headquarters.
An air ambulance flew in and police cordoned off a large area, while tourists on the London Eye, a popular visitor attraction, were left dangling up to 135 metres (443 feet) in the air for more than an hour.
Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jonathan was killed in the 2002 Bali bombing, was pictured with his face smeared with blood helping to give first aid to the fatally wounded police officer.
Britain’s allies vowed to stand with London in the fight against terror while lights on the Eiffel Tower in Paris were switched off at midnight in solidarity with the victims.
US President Donald Trump and French President Francois Hollande both spoke to May and Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stood with Britons “against all forms of terrorism”.
Several international tourists visiting one of London’s most iconic sights were caught up in the violence.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault travelled to London to visit three French pupils on a school trip who were among those hurt.
Five South Korean tourists were wounded, Seoul’s foreign ministry said, while the Romanian government said two of its citizens were also injured.
A Portuguese man was hurt, the country’s government said, while a seriously injured woman was rescued from the River Thames following the incident. A Chinese tourist was also slightly injured.