London: Two people were killed and several others injured in a terrorist attack at London Bridge on Friday as Scotland Yard confirmed that a male suspect wearing a hoax bomb vest was shot dead at the scene. Scotland Yard's Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said in a statement at New Scotland Yard headquarters in London that a "number" of people had been injured, some of whom are said to be critical. Two members of the public rushed to the hospital from the scene of the attack have died, a government source confirmed to the BBC.While the investigation is ongoing, the police can confirm that this was a terrorist incident, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement from Downing Street soon after being briefed by Basu.
I also want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others. They represent the very best of our country, he said, having broken off from the General Election campaign trail to rush back to Downing Street.Basu said the Metropolitan Police force was keeping an open mind over the motive behind the attack as counter-terror officers continue to carry out meticulous searches in the area to ensure there is no outstanding threat to the public.
"At approximately 2pm today, police were called to a stabbing at a premises near London Bridge. Emergency services attended including officers from the City of London Police and Metropolitan Police. A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from City of London police and I can confirm that this suspect died at the scene," Basu, Britain's senior-most counter-terrorism officer, told reporters.
Due to reports that the suspect might have had an explosive device specialist officers attended the scene. However, I can confirm at this time we believe a device that was strapped to the body of the suspect is a hoax explosive device," the Indian-origin police officer said.
The UK's counter-terror officials have taken over the investigation now that the incident has been declared as terror related. The London Ambulance Service had earlier declared it a major incident and the number of injuries are yet to be confirmed.
The scene, in an extremely busy area in the heart of the British capital, remains cordoned off with heavy police and emergency services presence. Eyewitnesses had reported seeing a man being shot by security services.
Images appearing on social media appear to show an exchange with the potential suspect being detained by police officers. There are also some videos showing people running across the bridge in panic.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also hailed the bravery members of the public who were seen in some images running towards the suspect to try and overpower him before being shot by police.
"What's remarkable about the images we've seen is the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger, not knowing what confronted them, he said.
"We do know from the statement given by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu that there appears to have been a device on the suspect. Members of the public didn't realise at the time it was a hoax device. They really are the best of us and another example of the bravery and heroism of ordinary Londoners running towards danger, risking their own personal safety to try to save others," he said.
The transport on London Bridge came to a standstill and offices and buildings in the vicinity are placed under lockdown as the incident unfolded. British Transport Police said London Bridge train station was closed and no trains would be stopping there.
UK home secretary Priti Patel issued a Twitter statement to express her concern as reports on the incident poured in.
My thoughts are with all affected. I am grateful for the rapid response of our police and I urge everyone to follow their advice, she said.
London Bridge was one of the areas targeted by an ISIS-claimed terrorist attack in June 2017, when 11 people died as terrorists went on a stabbing spree after ramming a van into pedestrians.
The UK had just earlier this month downgraded its terror threat level from "severe" to "substantial", which means a terrorist threat is likely rather than highly likely in the country.