London: The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s London attack, media reports said.
According to a report in the BBC on Sunday, IS’ news outlet Amaq, on the messaging app Telegram, said “a security unit of Islamic State fighters carried out the London attacks yesterday”.
An IS group propaganda outlet exhorted would-be jihadists to carry out vehicle and knife attacks on civilians just hours before three terrorists went on a rampage in central London, Xinhua reported.
According to media reports, the message sent out on an encrypted messaging app, urging attackers to “gain benefit from Ramadan” and “kill the civilians of the Crusaders. Run over them by vehicles”.
British police said 12 people have been arrested so far after the attack, which left seven people dead and 48 injured. Among the wounded, 21 people are in critical condition.
Seven killed in London terror, three terrorists shot dead
Suspected Islamists rammed a van into a group of unsuspecting pedestrians and tourists on the London Bridge and later launched knife attacks at nearby pubs, killing seven people and injuring 48. Police shot dead all three suspects.
At least 21 of the wounded, including two police officers, were reportedly in critical condition. Police said 12 suspects have been arrested in connection with the terror attack.
The Saturday night mayhem in the heart of London came less than a fortnight after a young British suicide bomber detonated a powerful bomb in the Manchester Arena just when an American concert had ended, killing 22 people and injuring more than 100.
It all began when a white transit-style van speeding toward the London Bridge Tube station drove into people including foreigners enjoying a pleasant weather around 10 p.m., sending one man flying some 20 feet in the air.
In no time, four or five people were on the ground, dead or dying, witnesses told the media.
The vehicle continued to drive towards Borough Market, just south of the bridge, where three assailants got out and began stabbing civilians at a restaurant as well as police officers who tried to stop them, the BBC reported.
Four police officers who tried to stop the attack were among those injured, two of them seriously. These were an off-duty officer and amateur rugby player who tackled one of the terrorists but was stabbed and a British Transport Police officer who took on the attackers armed with only his baton.
One attacker was seen with “a big knife” attacking people in the Borough Market whose pubs and restaurants were packed.
The mother of 23-year-old Daniel O’Neill, who is recovering in hospital after being stabbed, told the BBC he had a seven-inch scar from the knife attack.
“He had just stepped outside the bar for a second and a man ran up to him and said ‘this is for my family, this is for Islam’ and stuck a knife in him,” Elisabeth O’Neill said.
Armed officers who reached the scene within eight minutes after getting the first call gunned down the suspects, who wore fake bomb vests. A bystander also sustained bullet injuries but was out of danger.
By then, however, the terrorists — who like the dead have not been identified by name or nationality — had done the damage.
One of them barged into a crowded pub and repeatedly stabbed a young woman.
An eyewitness, Gerard, told the BBC: “They were running up shouting ‘This is for Allah’. They stabbed this girl maybe 10 times, 15 times.”
Others in the pub fought off the terrorist with chairs and bottles, forcing him to exit.
Some of the wounded were in critical condition, including a French citizen. Among the foreigners attacked were two Australians, a New Zealander and his French girlfriend and some other French citizens.
The attack triggered panic in the tourist area. People fled the scene, in some places with their hands raised on police instructions. The ruling Conservative Party immediately suspended its nation-wide election campaign.
London Bridge Tube station and the London Bridge were closed from both directions. Authorities said additional police and officers would be deployed across London in the coming days.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “We are treating this as a terrorist incident.” A Traffic Police officer, an off-duty officer and two more officers were injured as they took on the terrorists before their armed colleagues arrived.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It’s time to say enough is enough.” She said the counter-terrorism strategy would be reviewed, the election campaign would resume on Monday and the parliamentary elections would be held as planned on June 8.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party’s priority is public safety, pledging to “take whatever action is necessary and effective” to protect the country. He also called for the public to resist division in the wake of another terror attack.
This is the third terror attack in Britain since March.
On March 22, six people, including a lone attacker, were killed and at least 50 people were injured in a similar attack on Westminster Bridge near Parliament. Then came the Manchester horror.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would deliberately target innocent Londoners”, reports the Guardian.
President Donald Trump offered help to Britain and reiterated his call for a travel ban on citizens entering the US from select countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who returned home early on Sunday after a four-nation European tour, denounced the killings of the innocents and offered condolences to the victims.