Terror Alert in London: Van Mows Down Pedestrians, Others Stabbed
A large delivery van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge in the British capital late Saturday evening, striking a number of people who were left bleeding on the pavement. Near the scene of the road terror, attackers also stabbed at least two people. At least one of the victims died, and the casualty toll was expected to rise.
Heavily armed police patrolled the area and told everyone to move to safety. There were reports that shots had been fired, suggesting the attackers escaped. Authorities declared the incident was a terrorist attack.
Amid rumors and speculation about other incidents, police indicated a violent attack in another South London neighborhood several kilometers away might have been linked to the terrorists. But they later said the carnage on London Bridge and in Borough Markets was not connected to a separate stabbing in Vauxhall.
Prime Minister Theresa May said authorities were devoting all possible resources to tracing the source of the attacks and keeping London safe.
The U.S. Embassy in London issued an alert to U.S. citizens in the area.
Few details of what occurred were confirmed officially in the chaotic first hours after alarms were sounded about a wild driver aiming at pedestrians on London Bridge, but multiple sources on the ground — witnesses, bystanders and journalists — provided details that established what had happened.
London’s Metropolitan Police posted tweets updating the situation throughout the night and launched a social media campaign calling on the public to “RUN, HIDE, TELL” — in other words, to first go to a safe place quickly. “If there’s nowhere to go, then HIDE,” the police announcement said. “Turn your phone to silent and turn off vibrate. Barricade yourself in if you can,” and call police when it is safe to do so.
London Bridge and a subway station at the span’s southern end were closed off immediately after the incident began, after 10 p.m., local time, and traffic was halted over a wide area.
Several witnesses had said it appeared those involved in the first part of the attack, on London Bridge, escaped after knocking over pedestrians on the bridge.
News media published an image of a large white delivery van that apparently ran off a road in South London after leaving the bridge. Its doors were open, as if all occupants had fled, and the vehicle was partly crumpled against a street light.
May was monitoring the situation from her office at 10 Downing Street. In Washington, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said U.S. security officials were following the events in London closely, and that Trump was up to date on the details.
Trump himself posted a note on Twitter saying, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London … we will be there.”
His first tweet about the London attack, sent several minutes earlier, appeared to refer to the incident in the context of his administration’s efforts to restrict immigration to the U.S.: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”
London Bridge crosses the River Thames between central London and the South London neighborhood known as Borough Market, which lies several hundred meters from the bridge itself.
Many people witnessed what took place and gave their accounts to police and news reporters. Most said they saw a white van heading toward Borough Market veer off the roadway at high speed, probably in excess of 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph), and drive into pedestrians; about five to eight people who had been walking across the bridge were hit and thrown to the pavement.
Other witnesses said they saw at least two people who had been stabbed in a restaurant close to Borough Market.
Saturday’s incident came less than two weeks after a terror attack in Manchester, England, killed 23 people following a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. The pop star, who was badly shaken by the attack but uninjured, was scheduled to return to Manchester Sunday to perform a benefit concert for victims of the suicide attack and their families.
VOA’s Luis Ramirez and Jamie Dettmer contributed to this report.
IN PHOTOS: Van Hits Pedestrians on London Bridge