Londoners are waking up to beefed up security and transport delays after terror struck the capital when a van veered into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men went on a stabbing rampage killing seven and injuring 48 others, with 21 of them remaining critical.
The attack on a balmy Saturday night in the popular Borough Market was the second in two weeks for the UK, after the Manchester Arena concert suicide bombing on May 22, and the third in three months.
Islamic State claimed responsibility on Monday and police raids in London apartment blocks have resulted in 12 arrests.
“They went ‘This is for Allah,’ and they had a woman on the floor. They were stabbing her,” one witness Gerard Vowls said.
Florin Morariu, a Romanian chef who works in the Bread Ahead bakery, said he saw people running and some fainting. Then two people approached another person and “began to stick the knife in … and then I froze and I didn’t know what to do.”
He said he managed to get near one attacker and “hit him around the head” with a bread basket.
“There was a car with a loudspeaker saying ‘go, go’ and they (police) threw a grenade. … and then I ran,” he said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain must now toughen up on stamping out Islamist extremism and has proposed regulating cyberspace, adding that Britain has been far too tolerant of extremism.
“It is time to say, enough is enough,” May said.
With the UK national elections due on June 8, the country’s major political parties temporarily suspended campaigning but May says the vote will take place as scheduled because “violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process.”
Four Australians were injured in the attack, including 34-year-old Brisbane woman Candice Hedge, who is recovering in hospital after her throat was slashed and Darwin electrician Andrew Morrison, who also had his throat slashed and is now on his way back to Australia. Two others are believed injured, Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull said.
Canadian woman Christine Archibald is also among the dead, with her fiance’s family issuing a statement that she died in her fiance’s arms after being hit on London Bridge. They paid tribute to her saying she had worked as a volunteer in homeless shelters before leaving for Europe. A French national has also been confirmed dead.
London police said officers killed the attackers within eight minutes of arriving at the scene. Eight officers fired some 50 rounds, said Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the force’s head of counterterrorism.
A public vigil will be held for the seven people who died at 6pm (local time) on Monday at Potters Fields Park, an open space which surrounds City Hall on the River Thames near Tower Bridge.
The mayor’s office says the gathering is an opportunity for Londoners and visitors “to come together in solidarity to remember those who have lost their lives in Saturday’s attack, to express sympathy with their families and loved ones and to show the world that we stand united in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.”
Participants also will be invited to place flowers by the flagpoles outside City Hall.
London police say cordons will remain in place around London Bridge and the Borough Market area well into Monday as officers carry out further investigations, while train services will also be disrupted.