Police round up 12 suspects following London rampage, while Manchester puts on defiant show
British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday blamed “evil” Islamist ideology for an attack by knife-wielding men who mowed down and stabbed revellers in London, killing seven, as police said they had arrested 12 suspects.
Saturday night’s rampage at a popular nightlife hub around London Bridge by three men wearing fake suicide vests was the third deadly terror attack in Britain in less than three months and came only days before snap elections.
National campaigning for Thursday’s general election was suspended for the day out of respect for the victims, who included 48 people treated in hospital for injuries, but resumed last night Of those, 36 remained in hospital, with 21 in a critical condition.
One Canadian national and one Frenchman were among the fatalities and seven French citizens were injured. No details have been released about the suspects, who were shot dead within minutes by police.
Eight officers fired an unprecedented 50 rounds at the three attackers, according to Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who said a member of the public also suffered a gunshot wound.
Detectives were still investigating whether the assailants acted alone.
The 12 arrests were made in the ethnically diverse east London suburb of Barking, with Sky News reporting that a property raided by police belonged to one of the killers.
May said the attack was driven by the same evil ideology of Islamist extremism behind the recent Manchester suicide bombing that left 22 people dead, and the Westminster attack in March, which killed five.
The assailants wore fake suicide vests in a bid to increase the sense of panic as they ran people over on London Bridge before lunging seemingly at random at the crowds gathered around Borough Market, which is full of restaurants and bars.
A witness told the BBC he had seen three men get out of the van and thought they were going to help tend those who had been run over. Instead they started kicking them, punching them and took out knives.
“It was a rampage really,” he said, adding that he heard a shout of: “This is for Allah.” An Australian was among those admitted to hospital, while a Spaniard was slightly wounded.
Among those stabbed was a London Transport Police officer. A vigil for the victims will take place at nearby Tower Bridge this evening. Britain was already on high alert following the attack on a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande in Manchester two weeks ago, in which seven children were among the dead.
The national threat level was raised to maximum after theManchester attack and troops were deployed at key public sites, but reduced to its second highest level last weekend.
May said Britain’s response to the terror threat must change. There was “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”.
The ruling Conservatives and the main opposition Labour party suspended national campaign events for the day, but May insisted the election would go ahead as planned on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump offered his help, tweeting “WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” – and highlighting his thwarted ban on travellers from six mainly Muslim countries.
Meanwhile, fans gathered in Manchester yesterday for a star-studded charity concert recalling victims of the May 22 suicide bomb attack following the Ariane Grande concert.
A sell-out crowd of 50 000, many of them clutching “For our angels” signs, fell silent for a minute before Mumford & Sons front man Marcus Mumford opened the show.
Hastily organised as a benefit concert for the 22 people killed and 116 injured in that attack, the “One Love Manchester” event was one of the biggest single gatherings of musical talent this year.
Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Take That, Usher, the Black Eyed Peas, Little Mix and One Direction’s Niall Horan were all expected to perform at the Old Trafford cricket ground.
Authorities expected 130 000 people to be in the area and additional security measures were put in place. Revellers dressed for the occasion, with many wearing tops featuring a bee – a symbol for Manchester – and slogans expressing their love for the city.
Proceeds from the concert will be donated to a fund set up to help the victims’ families.
Rachel Jea, 32, said she was at Grande’s previous Manchester concert and felt it was important to attend yesterday’s show to regain trust after the bombing.
Grande, who described herself as broken following the May 22 bombing, immediately returned to the US, interrupting her Dangerous Woman world tour.
But the 23-year-old singer pledged to return for the charity concert, writing on her Instagram: “Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy.”
The 35 000 tickets put up for sale on Thursday at £40 (R658) each sold out in minutes with 14 200 free tickets set aside for those who attended Grande’s May 22 concert.
However, more than 10 000 unscrupulous applications were made for free tickets, with people applying despite not having attended the original concert, Ticketmaster said.
Others tried to resell their tickets on eBay for £1 200 (R19 760). The online auction platform has since pledged to immediately remove any item which profits in any way from the tragedy in Manchester. – AFP