Scotland Yard on Wednesday night said it was probing the UK Parliament attack on the assumption that it was inspired by ‘Islamist-related international terrorism’, although it refused to reveal more details.
Mark Rowley, who leads counter-terror policing, said the death toll had risen to five: three civilians mowed down by the attacker on Westminster Bridge, one police officer stabbed to death inside Parliament complex, and the attacker who was shot dead.
Of the 40 injured, he said three were police officers, with two of them seriously wounded.
The attacker has been identified, but they would not reveal it for now.
Rowley confirmed that Britain’s current terror threat level will remain at ‘severe’, the second-highest after ‘critical’. It has remained ‘severe’ since August 2014.
The attack bore similarities with the July 2016 Nice truck attack where 86 people were killed. Both the attacks involved using a vehicle as a weapon. Later, Islamic State claimed responsibility for Nice attack.
In another similar attack, at least 12 people were killed in Germany’s capital Berlin in December 2016 when a 24-year-old Tunisian man, a supporter of Islamic State, steered a truck into a crowded Christmas market.
In March last year, terrorists set off several bombs in Belgium capital Brussels airport and a metro station, killing 32 civilians. Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack too.
London is no stranger to terrorism. On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers detonated themselves in London underground trains and a double-decker bus, killing 52 people and injuring over 700.
In May 2013, fusilier Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich, southeast London by two al-Qaeda inspired extremists.
Scotland Yard has been rehearsing responses to terror attacks, including of the 2008 Mumbai kind, but when it happened at the heart of London on Wednesday, it was caught off guard.
“This is a day that we had planned for, that we all hoped would never happen, but sadly it is now a reality,” Mark Rowley said.