Cameron Meets Security Chiefs on Possible U.K. Terror Death

Thursday, 23 May 2013 03:32 AM

 

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(Updates with time of meeting in fifth paragraph.)

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- David Cameron will meet security chiefs this morning following the murder in London of a man who may be a soldier, an attack the prime minister said had “strong indications” of being a terrorist incident.

The victim was attacked just after 2 p.m. yesterday outside a military barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, the capital’s Metropolitan Police said. When officers arrived at the scene, they shot and wounded two armed men.

Video footage broadcast by ITV News showed a black man, his hands covered in blood and holding a cleaver and a knife, speaking after the attack. “We must fight them as they fight us,” he said in a London accent. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Your people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.” The man apologized that women had to witness the incident. “In our lands, our women see the same,” he said.

“There are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident,” Cameron told reporters on arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, where he dined with French President Francois Hollande before flying home earlier than planned. “Two people at the scene of the murder were wounded by the police and they are being treated as suspects.”

Cameron will lead the meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee at 8:45 a.m. in London today.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said in an e-mailed statement that the force’s counter-terrorism command was leading the murder probe and two men had been arrested.

Paris Meeting

Hollande, who traveled with Cameron from Brussels where they had both been attending a European Union summit, identified the victim as a soldier. Cameron refused to confirm that, and Hollande later said he was unaware of all the details.

Queen Elizabeth II had long been scheduled to visit Woolwich Barracks next week. “The queen is of course concerned by the reports,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “Her majesty is being kept informed. We can confirm that the queen will visit the King’s Troop at Woolwich Barracks on May 31.”

Home Secretary Theresa May was briefed by police and the director general of MI5, the security service, before convening an emergency Cobra meeting yesterday evening that was also attended by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. She briefed Cameron by phone as he traveled to Paris.

Security was tightened at Woolwich and other London barracks, Cameron’s office said after the meeting. Cobra will meet again this morning under Cameron’s chairmanship.

‘Sickening, Barbaric’

“I’m afraid it is overwhelmingly likely that it was indeed a terrorist incident of a kind that this city has seen before,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said as he left last night’s session. “It was a sickening, barbaric, completely unforgivable crime. I know that Londoners have been through terrorism before and this city has a huge resilience.”

A serving British soldier was the victim, House of Commons lawmaker Nick Raynsford said in an interview on the BBC. No other people are being sought as suspects, said Raynsford, who represents the Greenwich and Woolwich areas of London.

The attackers were yelling “Allahu akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic, and attacked the soldier with knives, Sky News television and the BBC reported.

“They weren’t trying to get away,” Joe Tallant, an eyewitness, told the BBC. “They could have easily got away. They was just walking round the body like they wanted the police to come and get them. One of the guys said: ‘No man is coming near this body, only women.’ Then he was telling people to call the police.”

Women were allowed to try to help the victim, Tallant said.

‘Laying Dead’

Another eyewitness, Lauren Collins, said she was getting off a bus near where the attack occurred.

“I’ve seen a man laying dead in the road and a smashed-up car separate from him,” said Collins, 20. “There was a big group of policemen. I do know he was wearing a Help the Heroes t-shirt,” she said, referring to a charity set up to help injured British soldiers.

Video footage of the scene showed a blue car on the sidewalk, with a trail of blood from the front of it into the road.

The two suspects were taken to separate hospitals.

“A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm,” Simon Letchford, a Metropolitan Police detective, said in a statement.

Police Presence

Letchford said there will be “an increased police presence” in Woolwich and the areas surrounding for “as long as is needed.”

The case would be the first actual, rather than planned, attack in Britain investigated as a possible act of terrorism since July 7, 2005. Fifty-two people were killed when four Islamist suicide bombers set off explosions on underground trains and a bus in central London during the morning rush hour.

Asked about the security implications, Cameron told reporters in Paris that “we also have to remember that in a free country like ours, the best way to defeat terrorism is to make sure you continue to go about your life, live your life and show the terrorists will never win.”

Cameron Says ‘Strong Indications’ London Murder Was TerrorismNSN MN7S650D9L37 Top U.K. Stories: TOPB News on terrorism in London: TNI LONDON TERROR

--With assistance from Ben Moshinsky in Brussels and Mark Deen in Paris. Editor: Eddie Buckle

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net; Lindsay Fortado in London at lfortado@bloomberg.net; Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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