Irshad Salim — President Donald Trump took to social media on Saturday to offer U.S. help to Britain while touting his controversial travel ban as an extra level of security for Americans as the British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain was experiencing a “new trend” in the terror threat.
“Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U.K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” Trump said in one of his tweets.
Saturday night militants drove a van at high speed into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing revelers on the street and in bars in the nearby Borough Market area, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 48, many with ‘life-threatening’ injuries, including a British Transport Police Officer. Police said the attacks had been declared terrorist incidents.
May acknowledged the latest (third) terrorist attack on Britain as a “new trend in the threat we face, as terrorism breeds terrorism and perpetrators are inspired to attack … by copying one another, and often using the crudest means of attack,” she said.
She added: “We cannot, and must not pretend that things can continue to carry on as they are” and claimed there was “too much tolerance” of Islamist extremism in the UK as she vowed a clampdown.
“It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam,” she said.
“It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.
“Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time, but it cannot be defeated by military intervention alone.
“Since the emergence of the threat from Islamist-inspired terrorism, our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. But it is time to say `Enough is enough’.”
May was speaking in Downing Street five days before the UK general election. Her office said she would chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Sunday.
Britain’s Conservative Party has announced that it is suspending national campaigning ahead of the general election on June 8 as a result of the terror attacks in London. Prime Minister Theresa May’s party said there will be no national campaigning Sunday.
It is not clear if campaigning will resume in the final days before the vote. The opposition Labor Party has not yet announced its plans for Sunday.
Only two weeks back 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.
Grande, who visited victims of the Manchester attack in the hospital on Friday, found herself confronted with another terror attack.
She tweeted: “Praying for London.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
In minutes, armed police had rushed to the scene and shot dead the three male attackers in the Borough Market area near the bridge, as authorities urged Londoners on Twitter to “run, hide, tell” if they were caught up in the violence.
“Sadly, six people have died in addition to the three attackers shot by police,” Mark Rowley, Britain’s top anti-terrorism officer, said. He said the three attackers had been wearing what looked like explosive vests that were later found to have been hoaxes. One critically injured succumbed later bringing the toll to seven.
The BBC showed a photograph of two possible London attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body. Hours after the attack the area remained sealed off and patrolled by armed police and counter-terrorism officers.
The London ambulance service said 48 people had been taken to hospitals across the city. Three major London hospitals were on lockdown to keep patients and staff safe.
A Reuters reporter said some time after the attack began that he had heard loud bangs near the Borough Market area, but these appeared to be controlled explosions by security services.
Streets around London Bridge and Borough Market, fashionable districts packed with bars and restaurants, would have been busy with people on a Saturday night out.
Witnesses described a white van careering into pedestrians near London Bridge and knocking over several people.
“It looked like he was aiming for groups of people. I froze because I didn’t know what to do,” Mark Roberts, 53, a management consultant, told Reuters. He saw at least six people on the ground after the van veered on and off the pavement.
“It was horrendous,” he said.
“We were in an Uber (taxi) going toward London Bridge and suddenly we saw people running. The Uber stopped, we asked people what was going on – people said there was shooting,” said Yoann Belmere, 40, a French banker living in London.
“Now the area is completely closed with police cars going one way and ambulances going the other,” he told Reuters.
A witness told CNN two men had entered a restaurant in the Borough Market area and stabbed two people inside. He said a waitress was stabbed in the throat and a man was stabbed in the back.
Gerard Vowls told The Guardian newspaper that he saw a woman being stabbed by three men at the south end of London Bridge. He said he threw chairs, glasses and bottles at the attackers in a bid to stop them.
“They kept coming to try to stab me. They were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people,” he told the newspaper. “I want to know if this girl is still alive. I’ve been walking around for an hour and a half crying my eyes out. I don’t know what to do.”
Bartender Alex Martinez said he hid in a garbage bin for a half hour when a man stormed the restaurant where he worked, which was nearly full.
“I saw that man with a knife in his hand and after that a man started screaming so I knew something wrong was happening,” he said.
Medics treated the injured near the market as shocked people cried and shouted around them. Police officers yelled at people to run from the area.
Simon Thompson told Sky News that he was just outside Borough Market when he saw crowds fleeing.
“We ran for like 100 meters and then saw loads of police cars turned up and there was kind of a period of quite intense gunfire,” he said. “I hid in a restaurant basement for about an hour. … Police told us to get out and then there was more gunfire.”
Police received the first call of reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on London Bridge at 10:08 p.m. (2108 GMT). Rowley said the attackers were dead in eight minutes.