An Israeli teenager who was injured in a stabbing attack in London on Wednesday night said her “Israeli instincts kicked in” as the incident unfolded.
Yovel Levkovski, 18, was among five people wounded in the stabbing spree in London’s Russell Square, in which one American woman was killed. British, American and Australian nationals were also among the wounded, and none suffered life-threatening injuries.
British police said the perpetrator, a Muslim Norwegian man of Somali origin, 19, engaged in a “spontaneous attack” and selected the victims “at random.”
Police said they had found no signs of radicalization as a motive and suspected that “this tragic incident [was] triggered by mental-health issues,” according to Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley. London Mayor Sadiq Khan also said that “there is no evidence at all” that the attacker was motivated by terrorism.
"There is no evidence at all" that London knife attack suspect was motivated by terror, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan https://t.co/hE6HqGJqaA
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2016
Levkovski said she was in London on vacation with her grandfather, a trip the two had taken before she is drafted into the Israeli army next week.
She recalled walking with her grandfather back to their hotel in Russell Square after dinner, when she suddenly heard screaming.
“I heard it and my Israeli instincts started to kick in,” she told Army Radio, recalling how there were not many people around when she suddenly saw two men running toward them.
“I suspected it was a terror attack and that the two were trying to escape,” she said. “I went up to one of them to help and felt a pain in my arm.”
Levkovski said the man she had tried to help turned out to be the attacker and that the second man had tried to catch him.
She also recalled seeing a woman and man covered in blood when she suddenly realized she was bleeding too. The woman later died of her wounds.
The Israeli teen sustained minor injuries and was released shortly after receiving treatment at hospital.
Levkovski said she and her grandfather would continue with their trip, despite the attack. “We want to go see a show and do as much as possible. I’m not afraid in Israel, so there’s no reason for me to start being afraid in London.”
Officers used a stun gun to subdue the suspect, who was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Police put more officers on London streets after the incident, which came just days after authorities warned the public to be vigilant in light of attacks inspired by the Islamic State group elsewhere in Europe.
Police said they received “numerous” calls from members of the public at around 10:30 p.m. local time Wednesday about a man attacking people with a knife in the streets around Russell Square, a busy central area full of students and tourists.
Mayor Khan urged the public to keep calm and remain vigilant, and encouraged people to be the first line of defense against any form of attack.
“We all have a vital role to play as eyes and ears for our police and security services and in helping to ensure London is protected,” he said.
Knives are the most common murder weapon in Britain, which has strict gun-control laws. There were 186 knife killings in the year to March 2015, according to government statistics — a third of all murders.
In the last three years London has seen two knife attacks by people inspired by radical Islam. In May 2013, two al-Qaeda-inspired London men killed off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in the street near his barracks. In January, mentally ill Muhiddin Mire tried to behead a London Underground passenger, shouting that he was doing it “for Syria.”
The Russell Square incident came within hours of an announcement by London police that they were putting more armed officers on the streets. The idea was to sustain public confidence following attacks by Islamic State-inspired groups in Europe.
Police in Britain do not carry guns for the most part — a principle that remains unchanged. Even with the additional armed officers, most of London’s 31,000 police officers will not be armed.