May cracks whip after terror attack
12 held as police raids continue
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.
Armed police on St Thomas Street, London, yesterday, near the scene of Saturday night’s terrorist attack in the city.