Terror strikes London, fear fatalities, says police

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Police and members of the emergency services attend to victims of a terror attack on London Bridge in central London on June 3, 2017. Armed police opened fire during what they described as a "terrorist" attack in central London Saturday after reports of stabbings and a van ploughing into pedestrians just days ahead of a general election. / AFP PHOTO / DANIEL SORABJI

London: Terrorism struck at the heart of London, police said Sunday, after a vehicle veered off the road and mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and gunshots rang out amid reports of knife attacks at nearby Borough Market.

The violence turned a summery Saturday night in an area full of bars and restaurants into a scene of panic and chaos, with officers running through crowded streets screaming for people to flee and lifeboats drafted to help clear the area.

British media reported that more than one person had been killed in the rampage.

Prime Minister Theresa May said it was a potential act of terrorism and the Metropolitan Police force said it had declared the attacks as “terrorist incidents.”

Police said they were called just after 10 p.m. (2100GMT) to reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on the bridge, which crosses the River Thames in central London.

Soon after, there were reported stabbings at nearby Borough Market, an area full of bars and restaurants.

The force said armed officers were sent to the scenes and shots were fired. They did not say if officers fired the shots.

The force initially said officers were also responding to a reported third incident, in the Vauxhall area of London. But they said later that turned out to be an unrelated stabbing.

The force tweeted a warning telling people in the area to run to safety, hide and then call police if it is safe to do so.

May said that “following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism.”

She said it was a fast-moving investigation and her thoughts were with “those who are caught up in these dreadful events.”

May’s office said she would chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Sunday.

About two hours after the first reports of an incident, television images showed people walking away from the London Bridge area with their hands on their heads. Police tweeted that Londoners should “remain calm but be alert and vigilant.”

Nick Brandon of British Transport Police said the force had received reports of “multiple” casualties in an incident possibly involving a knife and a vehicle. He said he did not know how serious the injuries were.

Multiple witnesses reported a vehicle veering off the road and hitting several pedestrians; others also said they saw a man with a knife.

Witnesses reported seeing injured people on the ground on the bridge. One, Holly Jones, told the BBC a white van veered off the road and struck as many as six people. She said she saw at least four or five people on the ground.

Another witness, Will Heaven, said he saw people who appeared to have been hit, and one being put into an ambulance.

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