British parliament attack: What we know

A floral tribute to the victims of yesterday's terror attack is left at the security cordon near Westminster Abbey in central London on March 23, 2017.
PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Three people were killed in an "Islamist-related" attack in the heart of London on Wednesday when a man mowed down pedestrians on a bridge, then stabbed a police officer outside parliament before being shot dead.

Here is what we know about the deadliest attack in Britain since 2005.

What happened?

At around 2:40 pm (1440 GMT), the attacker rammed a car along the pavement on Westminster Bridge, a busy traffic route that is also a popular tourist spot with its views of parliament and its Big Ben clock tower.

After ploughing down several people on the bridge, the attacker crashed the car into the railings outside parliament and then tried to enter the building, stabbing a policeman with a large knife. Armed officers shot the attacker dead.

In total the assailant killed three people during the rampage: two members of the public and the stabbed police officer. Authorities revised down the toll after earlier saying the attacker had killed four people.

4 killed, 40 injured in Britain Westminster Bridge attack

  • Aysha Frade, a mother who was run down and killed, was on her way to pick up her children.
  • Policeman Keith Palmer was killed during the terror incident at the Houses of Parliament. AFP PHOTO / Metropolitan Police Service
  • Kurt Cochran from Utah in the United States has been named as the third victim.
  • 4 people were killed and 40 injured after being run over and stabbed in a lightning attack at the gates of British democracy on Wednesday attributed by police to "Islamist-related terrorism".
  • The attack unfolded across Westminster Bridge in the shadow of Big Ben, a towering landmark that draws tourists by the millions and stands over Britain's Houses of Parliament - the very image of London.
  • The attacker's car struck pedestrians on the bridge before crashing into the railings surrounding the heavily-guarded Houses of Parliament, sowing first shock then panic in the seat of British power.
  • The assailant then ran through the gates brandishing a knife and stabbed a 48-year-old policeman to death before being shot dead by another officer.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as "sick and depraved" and said that "the terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city" in an attack on Britain's democratic values.
  • Standing outside her Downing Street residence after an emergency cabinet meeting, May voiced defiance and said parliament would meet as normal on Thursday, while Britain's alert level would be kept unchanged.
  • "We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart," said May, who was dressed in black.
  • Britain's top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley said the four victims included a policeman guarding parliament and three members of the public.
  • "Islamist-related terrorism is our assumption," Rowley told journalists, adding investigators believe they know the identity of the assailant who was shot dead by police.
  • The attack came a year to the day after Islamic State jihadists killed 32 people in twin bomb attacks in Brussels and after a series of deadly assaults in Europe that had hitherto spared Britain.
  • Parliament was locked down for several hours and hundreds of lawmakers and visitors were later evacuated to nearby Westminster Abbey and the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police.
  • An air ambulance flew in and police cordoned off a large area, while tourists on the London Eye, a popular visitor attraction, were stuck up to 135 metres in the air for more than an hour during the incident.
  • "I saw three bodies lying on the ground and a whole lot of police. It was pretty terrifying," said Jack Hutchinson, 16, from the United States, who was stranded on the observation wheel with his parents.
  • Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jonathan was killed in the 2002 Bali bombing, was pictured with his face smeared with blood helping to give first aid to the fatally wounded police officer.
  • US President Donald Trump and French President Francois Hollande both spoke to May and Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stood with Britons "against all forms of terrorism".
  • Social media users shared an altered image of a London Underground sign reading "We Are Not Afraid" and the hashtag #PrayforLondon trended on Twitter.
  • May was in parliament at the time of the attack and was seen being ushered away in a silver car as what sounded like gunfire rang out, British media reported.
  • Three French pupils on a school trip were among those hurt and a seriously injured woman was rescued from the River Thames following the incident.
  • Five South Korean tourists were wounded, the Yonhap news agency reported, while the Romanian foreign ministry said two Romanians were also injured.
  • A doctor at nearby St Thomas' Hospital said they were treating people with "catastrophic" injuries.
  • British lawmaker Mary Creagh told AFP there was "a real sense of panic" as the attack unfolded.
  • Polish former foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski was in a taxi on the bridge and said a car "mowed down at least five people... one of them bleeding profusely".
  • Three shots were heard on video footage.

Some 40 people were wounded, including five South Korean tourists, two Romanians, a Portuguese man and three French schoolchildren.

Britain's top counter-terror officer Mark Rowley told journalists on Wednesday that police suspect "Islamist-related terrorism".

Seven people were arrested in armed raids early Thursday, including in London and second city Birmingham.

How did authorities respond?

Parliament was swiftly put on lockdown during the attack and lawmakers and staff confined to the building for several hours.

Police cordoned off a large area around the parliament in Westminster, shutting the bridge and nearest Underground station, as emergency vehicles swarmed the area.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who was in parliament at the time of the attack, was rushed out of the building by car. After chairing a meeting of the government's COBRA emergencies committee, she described the attack as "sick and depraved" and confirmed that Britain would maintain its terror threat level at "severe".

A police spokesman said extra officers would be put on patrol in London and urged the public to be vigilant.

Defiant lawmakers said parliament would meet as usual on Thursday.

What is known about the attacker?

The attacker has not yet been named but Rowley said investigators believe they know his identity.

Press Association news agency photos, believed to be of the attacker lying on an ambulance stretcher, showed a burly, bearded man wearing black clothes.

Has anything like this happened in London before?

London's transport system was hit by four co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks in July 2005 that left 52 people dead, carried out by British attackers inspired by Al-Qaeda terror network. There was an attempted second wave of attacks two weeks later.

In 2013, two Islamic extremists killed soldier Lee Rigby on a London street by hitting him with a car before attempting to behead him.

Last August, a paranoid schizophrenic knifeman who tried to behead a commuter in a London Underground station in an Islamic State-inspired attack was sentenced to life behind bars.

In terms of attacks on parliament, Airey Neave - the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and a close friend of Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher - was killed by an Irish National Liberation Army car bomb in the House of Commons car park.

The latest incident comes with Europe on high alert after a series of deadly jihadist attacks, including the Brussels bombings exactly a year ago on March 22, 2016.

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