LONDON, United Kingdom — A man with a fake bomb strapped to his body stabbed two people in a “terrorism-related” attack on a London street Sunday before he was shot to death by police, authorities said.
One stabbing victim was hospitalized with life-threatening wounds and the other suffered less-serious injuries in the attack, which took place about 2 p.m. in the Streatham section, a combined residential and commercial neighborhood about 5 miles south of central London, police said.
Officers responded quickly to the stabbings because of a “proactive counter-terrorism operation” that was underway, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said without elaborating. Video from the scene appeared to show three undercover police officers in an unmarked car making a quick stop and emerging with weapons.
D’Orsi said police believe the bloodshed was related to Islamic extremism. She gave no details.
-NYC News Outlet- pic.twitter.com/ZyE3fXe7Ha
— NYC News Outlet (@NYCNewsOutlet) February 2, 2020
A witness spoke of seeing a man in Streatham “with a machete and silver canisters on his chest.”
D’Orsi said the device strapped to the assailant’s body was quickly determined to be a hoax.
A third person suffered minor injuries, apparently from flying glass.
Investigators gave no immediate details on the attacker. But police declared the violence terrorism-related more quickly than they have in similar cases in the past, suggesting they may have had information about him. And the police mention of an active counterterrorism operation suggested he may have been under surveillance.
Gulled Bulhan, a 19-year-old student from Streatham, told Britain’s Press Association that he witnessed the attack.
“I was crossing the road when I saw a man with a machete and silver canisters on his chest being chased by what I assume was an undercover police officer — as they were in civilian clothing,” he said. “The man was then shot. I think I heard three gun shots but I can’t quite remember.
Bulhan said he ran into a local library to seek safety.
“From the library I saw a load of ambulances and armed police officers arrive on the scene,” he said.
Karker Tahir said he was at work when he saw police chasing a man down Streatham High Road, the area’s main shopping district.
“They kept telling him, ‘Stop! Stop!” Tahir said. “But he didn’t stop, and then I saw that they shot him three times. It was horrible seeing it. The man was on the floor and it looked like he had something, which police said may be a device. Police came to us and said, ‘You have to leave the shop because he has a bomb in his bag.’”
The force urged people to avoid the area while the emergency services were responding.
— Dan Smith (@DanSmithNews) February 2, 2020
Footage posted to social media purporting to capture some of the incident showed armed police officers surrounding a man lying on the ground on Streatham High Road.
They then abruptly moved away, urging onlookers to move back, as other emergency vehicles arrived at the scene.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the aftermath that the government would introduce “fundamental changes” to the way people convicted of terrorism offenses are treated. He cited Sunday’s attack and another at Fishmonger’s Hall in November as reasons for the changes.
Britain has seen a spate of terrorist attacks in recent years.
In the most recent incident on November 29, 2019, convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people near London Bridge before being shot.