Drama of London attacks at Malaysian student's doorstep

PETALING JAYA - Siti Farhana Sheikh Yahya can see the police barricade tape right outside her home in the London Bridge area.

Earlier, she heard loud bangs, helicopters, police sirens and shouting from her apartment.

Frightened, the Malaysian student stayed indoors but kept peeking outside to see what was happening.

The 24-year-old Master's student at King's College London told The Star that she lives only a few mi­­nutes' walk from London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market where the London attack occurred.

"Everything happened right in front of my house. I could hear everything from my place," she said.

Her room is just 300m from where the assailants attacked some people.

"I heard helicopters and two loud bangs. I'm not sure what they were and I was afraid to go find out," she said.

"It was about 10 or 11 at night. I had just finished buka puasa and was at home alone. I wasn't aware of what was happening until I heard helicopters and sirens," she said.

Siti Farhana said she saw police officers approach a man outside an alley in front of her house.

"I heard them shouting 'Put your hands up!' and I saw them going over and talking to him," she said, adding that there was now police tape around that alley.

She said she was taking her friends' advice and staying put.

"Borough Market, where the stabbings happened, is also in front of my house. At 10pm or 11pm (5am or 6am Malaysian time) I could hear shouting. It was loud and chaotic outside," she said.

Knowing that she lived close to the site of the attacks, her friends and family immediately messaged and called to check on her.

Siti Farhana said the situation was much calmer by 3am (10am Malaysian time), although there was still police presence.

"I feel a lot better now. The bangs and the shouting got to me a bit. I was definitely shaken up ... now there are police, but hardly any noise," she added.

She said people in London were becoming increasingly worried about safety, especially after recent incidents at Westminster in March and Manchester in May.

As of 7pm Malaysian time, it was reported that seven victims died in the attack, which involved a van ramming into pedestrians on Lon­don Bridge and three men getting out and stabbing people in nearby Borough Market.

More than 40 people, including a police officer, have been hospita­lised.

Images from Borough Market showed a man with what appeared to be canisters strapped to his body but police later said they were not explosives.

The three attackers have been shot dead by police.

I cannot understand the pure evil behind these senseless acts of violence that take the lives of the innocent

Siti Farhana

Imperial College London PhD student Iman Hayat, 31, was breaking fast at a friend's house at the Elephant and Castle area in south London when the sounds of helicopters and sirens filled the air.

"It's so horrible that all this is happening. We were pretty close to the location. I would have passed through the area if I had gone home earlier," she said.

At 11pm London time, an hour or so after the attack at London Bridge, Iman decided to stay on in her friend's house as the attackers were reported to be still on the loose.

Iman and her friends kept themselves updated through WhatsApp groups with other students.

"We stayed with our friends until after sahur and subuh prayers, when we confirmed that the attac­kers had been stopped and felt that it was safe to go home," she said.

"But I was also paranoid about going out. It stressed me out thinking that this is becoming the norm now," she said.

At 4am, when things appeared to have settled down, Iman finally took a bus home to Shepherd's Bush, and saw many patrolling police cars along the way.

"I cannot understand the pure evil behind these senseless acts of violence that take the lives of the innocent," said Iman, who express­ed her condolences to those who had lost their loved ones.

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