Four dead in UK parliament attack

Armed police officers stand guard near a vehicle that crashed into the railings of the Houses of Parliament (Photo: AFP)

LONDON, UK-March 23: 10:06am(RNZI): Four people have died in an attack close to the UK Parliament, which police are treating as a terrorist incident.

The dead include the attacker and a police officer who was stabbed by the assailant.

At least 20 people are also injured after a car crashed into pedestrians on Wednesday afternoon. Nearby hospital St Thomas said it was treating patients for “catastrophic” injuries.

Among the injured is a woman pulled alive, but with serious injuries, from the Thames river. Three French schoolchildren, aged about 15 or 16, were hurt.

Scotland Yard’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley said police believed there was only one attacker, but that the police operation was ongoing.

“We are satisfied at this stage that it looks like there was only one attacker. But it would be foolish to be overconfident early on.”

The incident unfolded in several locations, including on nearby Westminster Bridge, where tourists take pictures of Big Ben and other attractions.

“I just saw a car go out of control and just go into pedestrians on the bridge,” eyewitness Bernadette Kerrigan told Sky News. She was on a tour bus on the bridge at the time.

“As we were going across the bridge, we saw people lying on the floor, they were obviously injured. I saw about 10 people maybe. And then the emergency services started to arrive. Everyone was just running everywhere.”

The attacker drove the grey car into railings at the Palace of Westminster. Witnesses said the driver ran through the open gates and stabbed an officer. Clutching a knife, he approached a second officer and was shot by police.

As the attack began, MPs inside the central London building said they had heard three or four gunshots.

Reuters reporters inside parliament said a large number of armed police, some carrying shields, poured into the building.

Parliament, which was in session at the time, was immediately suspended. MPs were told to stay inside, but later moved to Westminster Abbey.

Prime Minister Theresa May was seen being ushered into a silver Jaguar car as what sounded like gunfire rang out at Parliament during the incident.

Mrs May chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the immediate response to the incident.

The incident took place on the first anniversary of attacks on Brussels in Belgium.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

The New Zealand High Commission in London said no New Zealanders were caught up in the attack.

In May 2013, two British Islamists stabbed to death soldier Lee Rigby on a street in southeast London.

In July 2005, four British Islamists killed 52 commuters and themselves in suicide bombings on the British capital’s transport system in what was London’s worst peacetime attack.

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