Parliament reopens after deadly attack

London: Britain’s parliament reopened on Thursday with a minute’s silence in memory of three people killed in a suspected “IS-related” attack on the symbol of the country’s democracy.
With MPs projecting an air of “business as usual,” armed police arrested eight people in raids linked to Wednesday’s deadly assault carried out in the shadow of Big Ben that sowed panic in the heart of London.
Around 30 people were treated in hospital, including seven in critical condition, some with “catastrophic” injuries after the attacker mowed down pedestrians on a nearby bridge before stabbing a policeman at the parliament gates.
As MPs resumed business, police officers lined up outside their Scotland Yard headquarters nearby for a minute’s silence in front of the eternal flame to those officers who have given their lives in service. A packed parliament paid tribute, heads bowed.
“We are not afraid and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism,” said a defiant Prime Minister Theresa May.
Britain had until Wednesday’s attack been spared amid a series of deadly assaults in Europe. The attack in London came a year to the day after IS militants killed 32 people in twin bomb attacks in Brussels.
Britain’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley said police had raided six houses in London, the central city of Birmingham and elsewhere.
“It is still our belief… that this attacker acted alone yesterday and was inspired by international terrorism,” he said. Rowley acknowledged minority communities “will feel anxious at this time” due to previous extreme right-wing attacks and that the police would work with community leaders to ensure protection.
One of those killed was Aysha Frade, who worked in the administration team at a school a few hundred metres away. Among the injured were three French schoolchildren and a number of foreign nationals from China, Portugal, Romania and South Korea.
At the scene of the attack, helicopters circled overhead and a blue forensics tent was in place where the assailant died. Where the policeman was killed, there was blood on the ground.
Hundreds of extra police were on patrol as officers worked around the clock to piece together what happened in the deadliest attack in Britain since four bombers killed 52 people on London’s transport system in July 2005.
The British flag over parliament flew at half-mast in a sign of mourning.
Press Association news agency photos believed to be of the knifeman lying on an ambulance stretcher showed a burly man with black clothes and a beard.
Other pictures showed a knife on the cobblestones inside the vehicle entrance gates to parliament, while three shots were heard ringing out on video footage as terrified passers-by fled.
Standing outside her Downing Street residence after an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, May said Britain’s alert level would remain unchanged at level four, or “severe”.
The prime minister was in parliament at the time of the attack and was ushered away in a silver car as gunfire rang out. Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jonathan was killed in the 2002 Bali bombing, was pictured with his face smeared with blood helping to give first aid to the fatally wounded police officer.
Queen Elizabeth II postponed her appearance on Thursday to open the new headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police and London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called a candlelit vigil on Trafalgar Square later. — AFP