Reports say five people, including a London police officer who was stabbed and the alleged assailant, were killed in a terror attack that saw more 40 people injured just outside the Parliament building on Wednesday in an act described as “sick and depraved” by British Prime Minister Theresa May.
According to the Acting Metropolian Police Deputy Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Mark Rowley, there was only one attacker who authorities believe was “inspired by international terrorism.”
Rowley said three civilians were among those killed. He also identified the officer killed in the attack as Keith Palmer, 48.
“One of those who died was a police officer from our Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command who had 15 years service,” he said.
Rowley said it was “too early” to publiclly release the name of the suspect in the attack, but that officials “think we know who the attacker is and are working to establish who his associates are.”
Armed and unarmed patrols have been stepped up as a precaution across the country, according to Rowley. A full counter-terrorism investigation is underway.
Police said a vehicle mowed down pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, leaving more than a dozen with injuries described as “catastrophic“.
Rowley said the car then crashed near to Parliament, and one man – armed with a knife – continued the attack and tried to enter Parliament.
The knife-wielding attacker stabbed a police officer and was shot on the grounds outside Britain’s Parliament, sending the compound into lockdown for hours.
The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe, and will remain so, according to May. The attack came on the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks in Brussels in which 32 people were killed and more than 300 injured.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated suicide bombings last year – two at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. The bombings were the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history.
ISIS has long promoted the use of vehicles and knives in attacks by so-called “lone wolf” terrorists, particularly in Western countries. Senior U.S. officials expected an uptick of terror attacks in Europe as they ramp up the fight to take ISIS capital Raqqa, it is said.
The terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, however, a European government official told Reuters that investigators are considering the possibility the attack was inspired by ISIS propaganda.
London police were called to the Parliament building at around 2:40 p.m. local time (10:40 a.m. EST) after reports of a vehicle crashing into a crowd at Westminster Bridge near Britain’s parliament.
Meanwhile, the French Prime Minister said French high school students were among the injured on Wednesday.
Colleen Anderson of St Thomas’ Hospital said a woman died after a vehicle apparently hit pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near Parliament.
Anderson said: “There were people across the bridge. There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries.”
A woman was also pulled alive from River Thames. The Port of London Authority said the female member of the public was recovered from the river, injured but alive.
Rick Longley told the Press Association that he heard a bang and saw a car plow into pedestrians and come to a crashing stop. Images from the scene showed pedestrians sprawled on the ground, with blood streaming from a woman surrounded by a scattering of postcards.
“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben,” he said. “A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman. I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.“