May cracks whip af­ter ter­ror at­tack

12 held as po­lice raids con­tinue

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BRI­TISH Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has called for a stronger re­sponse to Is­lamist ex­trem­ism af­ter three at­tack­ers drove a van into pedes­tri­ans on Lon­don Bridge and stabbed oth­ers nearby, killing seven peo­ple and in­jur­ing 48.

Lon­don’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice ar­rested 12 peo­ple in the Bark­ing district of east Lon­don in con­nec­tion with the at­tack and raids were con­tin­u­ing there, the force said.

The at­tack oc­curred five days be­fore a par­lia­men­tary elec­tion and was the third to hit Bri­tain in less than three months. May yes­ter­day said the vote would go ahead as planned on Thurs­day.

“It is time to say enough is enough,” the Con­ser­va­tive leader said in a tele­vised state­ment out­side her Down­ing Street of­fice, where flags few at half-mast.

“We can­not and must not pre­tend that things can con­tinue as they are,” May said, call­ing for a beefed-up counter-ter­ror­ism strat­egy that could in­clude longer jail sen­tences for some of­fences and new cy­berspace reg­u­la­tions.

Less than two weeks ago, a sui­cide bomber killed 22 chil­dren and adults at a con­cert by US singer Ari­ana Grande in Manch­ester.

In March, in an at­tack sim­i­lar to Satur­day’s, five peo­ple died af­ter a man drove into pedes­tri­ans on West­min­ster Bridge in cen­tral Lon­don and stabbed a po­lice­man.

On Satur­day night, po­lice shot dead the three male as­sailants in the Bor­ough Mar­ket area near Lon­don Bridge within eight min­utes of re­ceiv­ing the first emer­gency call shortly af­ter 10pm local time.

Eye­wit­nesses de­scribed har­row­ing scenes as the at­tack­ers’ white van veered on and off the bridge side­walk, hit­ting peo­ple along the way, and the three men then ran into an area packed with bars and res­tau­rants, stab­bing peo­ple in­dis­crim­i­nately.

Ac­counts emerged of peo­ple try­ing to bar­ri­cade them­selves in a pub while oth­ers tried throw­ing ta­bles and other ob­jects to fend off the at­tack­ers.

At a block of flats in Bark­ing, a res­i­dent said he heard con­trolled ex­plo­sions early yes­ter­day morn­ing as po­lice gained ac­cess to the build­ing. A Reuters pho­tog­ra­pher later saw four women be­ing re­moved from the build­ing, shield­ing their faces.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack.

Is­lamic State, los­ing ter­ri­tory in Syria and Iraq to an ad­vance backed by a US-led coali­tion, had sent out a call on in­stant mes­sag­ing ser­vice Tele­gram early on Satur­day urg­ing its fol­low­ers to carry out at­tacks with trucks, knives and guns against “Cru­saders” dur­ing the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madaan.

Is­lamist mil­i­tants have car­ried out scores of deadly at­tacks in Europe, the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia and the US in the past two years.

“We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new trend in the threat we face as ter­ror­ism breeds ter­ror­ism,” May said. “Per­pe­tra­tors are in­spired to at­tack not only on the ba­sis of care­fully con­structed plots… and not even as lone at­tack­ers rad­i­calised on­line, but by copy­ing one an­other, of­ten us­ing the crud­est of means.”

She said the se­ries of at­tacks were not con­nected in terms of plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion, but were in­spired by what she called a “sin­gle, evil ide­ol­ogy of Is­lamist ex­trem­ism” that rep­re­sented a per­ver­sion of Is­lam and of the truth. She said this ide­ol­ogy had to be con­fronted both abroad and at home.

“There is… far too much tol­er­ance of ex­trem­ism in our coun­try,” she said, urg­ing Bri­tons to be more ro­bust in stamp­ing it out in the public sec­tor and in wider so­ci­ety.

Most of the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties sus­pended elec­tion cam­paign­ing yes­ter­day, but May said this would re­sume to­day.

Bor­ough Mar­ket re­mained cor­doned off and pa­trolled by armed po­lice and counter-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cers yes­ter­day, with train sta­tions closed. Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors could be seen work­ing on the bridge, where buses and taxis stood aban­doned.

PIC­TURE: AP

Armed po­lice on St Thomas Street, Lon­don, yes­ter­day, near the scene of Satur­day night’s ter­ror­ist at­tack in the city.

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