At Least 4 Dead, 20 Injured After Attack In London

Mar 22, 2017
Originally published on March 22, 2017 6:41 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A terror attack in the center of London has left five people dead, including a police officer, and more than 40 people injured. Police say they have killed the man they believe was the lone attacker. It started on Westminster Bridge when the attacker drove his SUV into pedestrians. He later crashed his vehicle into the fence surrounding Parliament and got inside. For more, we have NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Hey Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So tell us what else you've learned about what happened today.

LANGFITT: Well, what happened - this was about mid-afternoon, typical cloudy day here in London. And the SUV took off from the south bank of the Thames heading towards Big Ben and went down the sidewalk and started to hit people. There's a guy named Steve Voakes (ph). He was on the bridge at the time. He described what he saw to Britain's Sky News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE VOAKE: You know, I was just walking across the bridge when suddenly a bus stopped right in front of me, and everybody started screaming. And I thought somebody must have been hit by a car. And then I saw a body on the other side of the road, and then there was another body further up. And then when I looked over the side of the bridge, there was another body lying in the water.

MCEVERS: A body lying in the water - is that what he said?

LANGFITT: Yeah, a body lying in the water. A woman either was hit by the car - by the vehicle and went over the bridge or jumped off the bridge, which under the circumstances is frankly pretty rational. The good news is that the woman was later actually pulled from the water and was rescued. We don't know her condition.

MCEVERS: And so after he hit people on the bridge like this, is that when he drove his car into the fence?

LANGFITT: Yeah, so what happens is...

MCEVERS: (Unintelligible).

LANGFITT: He hits these people. He drives past Big Ben. I mean 15 meters after Big Ben, he turns to the left. He crashes into the fence, crashes the front end of the car in, jumps out, runs around the corner. And the gates here at Parliament are open. There are very, you know, well-armed guards there. He rushes through the gates. Police warn him. They yell at him. He apparently has a knife and stabs one officer and very soon after that is shot and killed.

MCEVERS: Do we know anything about this man or about why he did this?

LANGFITT: The police haven't said anything yet. We don't know the identity. We don't really have an idea of why this person did this. I should mention this may be a complete coincidence, but it's just worth remarking on. This is the anniversary - the one-year anniversary of last year's attack at the Brussels Airport, a bomb attack that - in which 32 people were killed. But again, I want to emphasize we don't know if there's any connection to that at all.

MCEVERS: Has anyone claimed responsibility?

LANGFITT: Not yet, not that we've seen.

MCEVERS: So how is the government responding then there in London?

LANGFITT: Well, the metropolitan police are - they put their counterterrorism unit on this. They obviously take it very seriously. It was an attack on Parliament. Prime Minister May, who seems to have been in the House of Commons at the time that this happened - she's called an emergency meeting. House of Commons was actually locked down initially, and there's a live feed from the House of Commons. So while they were locked down and the police were outside and the situation was very fluid, they were still actually broadcasting and talking. They have been able to move on and leave Parliament.

And Parliament is actually going to begin and meet again tomorrow I think probably to try to give people a sense of continuity. As we know, this is not the first time that London has been the subject of terror attacks.

MCEVERS: Exactly. I mean tell us - remind us of some of those attacks that have happened in London before.

LANGFITT: Well, yeah, I mean one - I think the one that people would remember pretty well in the United States - this was four years ago. There was an al-Qaida-inspired attack. Two men on the streets of London actually nearly decapitated a soldier. And this was actually caught on video. And one of the assailants actually spoke to the person who was shooting the video. It was very, very haunting.

Then you would go back to maybe 2005. There were four people who detonated backpacks on the London Tube, our metro system here, as well as a double-decker bus. That killed 52 people, and about 700 were injured. And of course before that, we had the Irish Republican Army. We had bombings going back into the '70s.

So today on the streets of London, when I was looking at people talking a little bit, yes, people were rattled by this, and they were very cautious. They were looking around. But they are used to this sort of stuff. Although an attack on Parliament is pretty unusual.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you so much.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.