LONDON – Five people are dead, including a police officer, while at least 40 other were injured in what has been declared a “terrorist attack” outside of the U.K. parliament on Wednesday.
London’s Metropolitan Police said a vehicle struck a number of people around 2:40 p.m. local time, including three police officers, walking on the Westminster Bridge, not too far from where a police officer was stabbed outside of the British Parliament.
“The car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man armed with knife continue the attack and tried to enter parliament,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said.
“The car then crashed near to Parliament and at least one man armed with knife continue the attack and tried to enter Parliament,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said.
In a statement later on that night, Rowley confirmed the number of dead rose to five.
“One of those who died today was a police officer,” Rowley told reporters. The officer was identified as 48-year-old Keith Palmer, who was protecting Parliament at the time of the attack.
“I can also now confirm that three members of the public who lost their lives in the attack. … and as I confirmed earlier, the suspected attacker was shot dead by an armed officer.”
Two other police officers remain in serious condition, Rowley confirmed.
Rowley said officers believe there was only one attacker, adding that it’s still under investigation.
“Our working assumption is that he was inspired by international terrorism,” Rowley said.
Police are currently focusing on the unnamed suspect’s motivation, preparation and whether or not he had associates.
“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,” Rowley had said earlier Wednesday.
Police also said the number of officers on the streets in London will be higher than normal for the next few days.
Police have declared the attack as a “terrorist incident.”
“Our response will be ongoing for some time as it is important that we gather all the possible evidence.” Commander BJ Harrington said.
The police commander noted that “although we remain open minded to the motive, a full counter terrorism investigation is already underway, led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.”
An Associated Press photographer captured this moment when a police officer appears to be pointing a gun at a man being worked on by paramedics.
The man was then put on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance.
Speaking with the Associated Press, a witness said he saw a man stab a police officer outside of the Parliament building.
“We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out,” Rick Longley told the news agency. “They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben. A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.”
Citing a junior doctor at a local hospital, both the BBC and Sky News said one woman had died as a result of the incident while others suffered “catastrophic injuries.”
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Twitter that French students were among the injured.
Speaking with Sky News, a witness said she saw a car “go out of control and go into pedestrians on the bridge.”
“I saw people lying on the floor, obviously injured. I saw about 10 people, maybe,” the woman told the broadcaster.
A government employee told Reuters that at least two people had been shot but police have yet to confirm the shooting.
Speaking in Parliament, leader of the House of Commons David Lidington told lawmakers an attacker was shot by police.
“The alleged assailant was shot by armed police. An ambulance is currently attending the scene to remove the casualties,” Lidington said. “There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster but it would be wrong of me to go into further details before confirmation from the police and House security authorities.”
Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the attack later on Wednesday and said the suspects behind the deadly terrorist attack purposely chose to “strike the heart of [the] capitol” because it thrives on democracy and freedom of speech.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences to the “victims of this cowardly attack.”
“The scene unfolding in London is one that is all too familiar to members of this House that were here two and half years ago,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons. “An attack on the symbol and the seat of democracy is a cowardly and reprehensible act that we condemn in the strongest terms.
“Canada and the U.K. are close friends and allies and our message to the citizens of the United Kingdom and our colleagues in the British parliament is simple. We stand with you,” the prime minister said.
In 2014, gunman Michael Zehaf Bibeau fatally shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before storming Parliament Hill where he died in a shootout with then House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.
The Westminster subway station was also closed “due to police investigation.”
The mayor of London issued a statement saying an “urgent investigation is underway.”
“There has been a serious incident near to Parliament Square this afternoon which is being treated as a terrorist attack until the police know otherwise,” Sadiq Khan said. “My thoughts are with those affected and their families.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning the attacks.
“We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference,” Tillerson said.
Wednesday’s incident comes on the one year anniversary of the terror attack in Brussels during which suicide bombers killed 32 people in an airport and metro station. Britain’s terror alert level remains “severe” or “an attack is highly likely,” which was last updated in May of last year.
*with files from Rebecca Joseph