British Prime Minister Theresa May called on Sunday for a stronger response to extremism after three attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby, killing seven people and injuring 48.
London’s Metropolitan Police arrested 12 people in the Barking district of east London in connection with the attack and raids were continuing there, the force said.
The attack occurred five days before a parliamentary election and was the third to hit Britain in less than three months. May said the vote would go ahead as planned on Thursday.
“It is time to say enough is enough,” the Conservative leader said in a televised statement outside her Downing Street office, where flags few at half-mast.
“We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” May said, calling for a beefed-up counter-terrorism strategy that could include longer jail sentences for some offences and new cyberspace regulations.
Less than two weeks ago, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults at a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England. In March, in a attack similar to Saturday’s, five people died after a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in central London and stabbed a policeman.
On Saturday night, police shot dead the three male assailants in the Borough Market area near London Bridge within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call shortly after 10 pm (2100 GMT).
Eyewitnesses described harrowing scenes as the attackers’ white van veered on and off the bridge sidewalk, hitting people along the way, and the three men then ran into an area packed with bars and restaurants, stabbing people indiscriminately.
Accounts emerged of people trying to barricade themselves in a pub while others tried throwing tables and other objects to fend off the attackers.
May’s government announced that a nationwide minute of silence would be held at 1000 GMT on Tuesday to pay respect to the victims of the attack and flags would remain at half-mast on government buildings until Tuesday evening.
At an apartment block in Barking, a resident told Sky News he heard controlled explosions early on Sunday morning as police gained access to the building. A Reuters photographer later saw four women being removed from the building, shielding their faces as they stepped into police vans.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the London Bridge attack.
“We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism,” May said.
“Perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots… and not even as lone attackers radicalised online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.”
She said the series of attacks were not connected in terms of planning and execution, but were inspired by what she called a “single, evil ideology of extremism”. She said this ideology had to be confronted both abroad and at home.
“While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is — to be frank — far too much tolerance of extremism in our country,” she said,
Most of the main political parties suspended election campaigning on Sunday, but May said this would resume on Monday.
The anti-European Union UK Independence Party said it would not suspend its campaign because disrupting democracy was what the extremists wanted.
Ariana Grande and other music stars were due to give a benefit concert at Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground on Sunday evening to raise funds for victims of the concert bombing and their families. — Reuters