May 22, 2013

Brutal London attack heightens terrorism fears

The Associated Press

LONDON — Two men with butcher knives hacked another to death Wednesday near a London military barracks and one then went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver. Soon after, arriving police shot and wounded the unidentified assailants and took them into custody.

click image to enlarge

In a shocking video broadcast on CNN and British TV, one man gestured with bloodied hands shortly after the attack, waving a butcher knife and shouting political statements against the British government.

click image to enlarge

Police cordon off the scene of an attack which has left one man confirmed dead and two people wounded near Woolwich barracks in London Wednesday, May, 22, 2013. Scotland Yard said officers responded to reports of an assault Wednesday afternoon in the London neighbourhood of Woolwich. London Ambulance service said one man was found dead at the scene and two other men were taken to the hospital, with one in serious condition.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The brutal daylight attack galvanized this city and raised fears that terrorism had returned to London.

Authorities did not identify the victim by name, but French President Francois Hollande referred to him as a "soldier" at a news conference in Paris with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron would not confirm that, but British media reported that the victim was wearing a shirt in support of troops and Britain's Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether a U.K. soldier was involved.

Calling it "an appalling murder," Cameron said there were "strong indications" it was an act of terrorism, and two other officials said there were signs the attack was motivated by radical Islam.

The Cabinet's emergency committee was immediately convened and security was stepped up at army barracks across London. Cameron cut short his Paris trip to return to London and his office said he would chair another session Thursday.

The incident unfolded Wednesday afternoon when officers responded to reports of an assault just a few blocks from the Royal Artillery Barracks in the neighborhood of Woolwich.

Images from the scene showed a blue car that appeared to have been used in the attack, its hood crushed and rammed into a signpost on a sidewalk that was smeared with blood. A number of weapons — including butchers' knives, a machete and a meat cleaver — were strewn on the street.

While there were moments of chaos — one local primary school went into lockdown when a teacher saw the victim's body — the scene was striking in its normalcy. Pedestrians milled about with grocery bags and shopping carts as a body lay motionless in the street — and the attackers remained on the scene, wielding long knives.

One British broadcaster ran video taken on a cellphone of what appeared to be one of the attackers, his hands covered in blood, making political statements about "an eye for an eye" as a body lay behind him.

Footage — obtained by ITV news and The Sun newspaper — showed a man in a dark jacket and knit cap walking toward a camera, clutching a meat cleaver and a knife. Speaking in English with a British accent, he apologized that women passers-by "have had to witness this" barbarity, saying that "in our land our women have to see the same."

He gave no indication what that land was as he urged people to tell the government to "bring our troops back." British troops are deployed in Afghanistan and recently supported the French-led intervention in Mali.

"We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you," the man declared. "We must fight them as they fight us." The camera then panned away to show a body lying on the ground.

The Associated Press examined the footage to verify its authenticity, cross-referencing images from the scene, aerial shots, the location of a car behind the alleged attacker and the appearance of a body and a car in the background. There was no immediate way for the AP to verify who the cameraman was.

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