In her first public comments after a deadly car ramming and stabbing attack in the heart of London Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “sick and depraved terrorist attack” and said the targeting of Parliament was no accident.
Four people were killed and about 40 others injured when a knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage in heart of the capital city, mowing down pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge and then stabbing an armed police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament before being shot dead by police.
The British police on Wednesday night said the death toll in the attack had risen to from three to four: a policeman and three civilians. The number of injured had risen from around 20 to 40.
Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer said police suspected Islamist terrorism was behind the attack. “Islamist-related terrorism is our assumption,” Mark Rowley told journalists. He said authorities believe they know the assailant’s identity but would not reveal it while the investigation was ongoing.
In a late-night statement outside her Downing Street office, a defiant May said the nation would not give in to terror and those who targeted the seat of power in Britain. She insisted that “tomorrow morning Parliament will meet as normal,” and urged the country to move on and behave as normal on Thursday.
“We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart,” she said, praising the security services who ran toward danger.
London Ambulance Service said medics treated 12 people for serious injuries and eight who were less seriously hurt.
Dr. Colleen Anderson of St. Thomas’ Hospital said some of the wounded had “catastrophic” injuries. “Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries,” she said.
The French Foreign Ministry said that three students on a school trip from Saint-Joseph in the Brittany town of Concarneau were among the injured.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve offered support to the British and to “the French students wounded, their families and their schoolmates.” London is a common destination for French school trips.
A French government plane was set to fly to London Wednesday evening to bring the families of three French students to their loved ones. French President Francois Hollande announced the move in a statement Wednesday night after speaking with May.
Hollande offered his condolences to May for those who died in the attacks and expressed France’s solidarity with Britain “in this tragic ordeal.”
“The British and French services are in close contact to conduct the investigation,” Hollande added.
Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stood by Britain “firmly and resolutely.”
“Although the background to these acts are not yet clear, I reaffirm that Germany and its citizens stand firmly and resolutely alongside Britons in the struggle against all forms of terrorism,” Merkel said in a statement.
“In these grave moments, we Germans feel very close to the British people,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier added.
In Brussels to commemorate the anniversary of attacks on the main airport and a metro station, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “the fact that exactly on the same day something similar happened in London, and to London, is really putting me in the situation of someone who does not have…enough words to express how I am deeply feeling.”
White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said that US President Donald Trump had spoken with May and said that the United States applauds “the quick response of British police and first responders” and condemns the attacks.
Spicer says that the city of London and the British government have the “full support” of the US as they investigate the attack, adding that the president will be “following the developments.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his “condolences to the victims and their families” in a statement, adding: “The American people send their thoughts and prayers to the people of the United Kingdom.
“We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference,” he said.
In a brief statement, the US Homeland Security Department said the security situation in the United States had not changed in the wake of the attack.
Canada, however, had decided to tighten its security, especially on Parliament Hill, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said. “The appropriate response has been taken by every police and security service in Canada, including those that function on Parliament Hill,” he told a press briefing.
“Canadians can be assured that everything that could be done is being done by the appropriate authorities here in Canada,” Goodale stressed.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the victims of today’s attack in London and their families. Canadians remain united with the people of the UK.”