LONDON — Metropolitan Police have stepped up security across central London, adding more officers to patrol the streets after five people were killed (including the attacker) and at least 40 injured, many of them seriously, in a terrorist attack near the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.
There's been a shooting / stabbing at Parliament. Stay safe everyone. pic.twitter.com/Fb2LNXfLh5
— Luke Steele (@Lukesteele4) March 22, 2017
The Westminster Underground station remained shut on Wednesday night, and government buildings remain in lockdown as police dealt with the victims of two attacks, one on Westminster bridge, and the other outside the nearby Houses of Parliament.
A car on Westminster Bridge has just mowed down at least 5 people. pic.twitter.com/tdCR9I0NgJ
— Radosław Sikorski MEP 🇵🇱🇪🇺 (@sikorskiradek) March 22, 2017
A number of shops in the riverside Southbank Centre were forced to close, including Royal Festival Hall Shop, Foyles Bookshop, and Southbank Centre Book market on advice from police who said they are treating the attacks as a terrorist incident.
A spokesman for Southbank Centre added that a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra has also been canceled. Mulitple helicopters buzzed over central London well into Wednesday evening, while people were told to avoid the neighborhoods around Parliament Square.
The attack started when a car drove over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers who were on their way back from a commendation ceremony.
After the car crashed into railings, the attacker continued his rampage and tried to enter Parliament, killing a police officer with a knife. The attacker, whom police believe acted alone, was later shot and killed.
Earlier in the day, designers and members of the British Fashion Council were in Westminster, discussing the implications of Brexit on U.K. fashion businesses at the House of Commons.
The BFC said there was a roundtable discussion at 10 a.m. with Matt Hancock, a member of Parliament and a minister of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. No one from the meeting was impacted.
A spokesman for Downing Street said British Prime Minister Theresa May was safe and that she is being kept updated and will shortly chair Cobra, a meeting that brings together government ministers with senior officials of the emergency services and security and intelligence agencies.
“The thoughts of the prime minister and the government are with those killed and injured in this appalling incident, and with their families,” a spokesman said.
Police confirmed that an ongoing investigation led by the Counter Terrorism Command was underway. Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that the U.S. President had been briefed on “the situation in the U.K.” and continues to monitor events.
.@POTUS has been briefed on the situation in the U.K. Continuing to monitor and update
— Kayleigh McEnany 45 Archived (@PressSec45) March 22, 2017
The attack comes just days after a man was killed at Orly airport near Paris after grabbing a soldier’s gun. It was the second incident in two months involving a lone attacker targeting soldiers, who routinely patrol public spaces as part of Opération Sentinelle, the French military operation put in place in response to the January 2015 terrorist attacks.
The British capital was the victim of two terrorist scares following the Paris attacks in 2015. The city was on high alert and was a victim of a bomb scare on Regent street. The stores within the area were temporarily shut. At the time, bomb disposal experts assessed the situation and the item was deemed unsuspicious.
In late 2015, a husband-and-wife team of terrorists, Mohammed Rehman and his wife Sana Ahmed Khan, who were planning a suicide bomb attack on London’s Westfield mall and the London Underground were jailed for a minimum of 27 and 25 years, respectively.