LONDON, (NBC) — Police have shot dead a man suspected of stabbing several people in what has been declared a terrorist attack in central London on Friday afternoon, officials said.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu told a press conference outside the Metropolitan Police headquarters that the attack on London Bridge had been declared a terrorist incident.
“A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from the City of London Police and I can confirm that the suspect died at the scene,” he said. “A number of other people received injuries during this incident — as soon as we can provide an update on their conditions we will.”
Basu also confirmed that specialist officers were called in response to reports that the suspect was wearing an explosive vest.
“However, I can confirm at this time we believe a device that was strapped to the body of the suspect was a hoax device,” he said.
“Officers continue to carry out meticulous searches in the area to ensure there is no outstanding threat to the public.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke shortly after the incident, using the opportunity to praise emergency services and members of the public who intervened.
He called them “the very best of our country” and promised authorities would bring anyone involved in the attacks to justice.
“I pay tribute again to the work of the police and the emergency services and what they have done. But I would urge everybody, of course, to be vigilant. One cannot help but think back to what happened in 2017, in the same part of the city,” he said, referring to another terror attack on London Bridge in 2017 in which eight people died and 48 were injured. “And I hope very much that people will be able, as fast as possible, to go about their normal business.”
Johnson said he would temporarily pause his general election campaign in response to the attack. His party is currently facing another election only months after Johnson became prime minister after failing to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union that satisfied Parliament.
Meanwhile, hours after the attack, the surrounding area was cordoned off and bus, subway and train stations were closed. Shops and restaurants in the area remained evacuated.
The attack was first reported just before 2 p.m. (9 a.m. ET). Soon after, Transport for London confirmed that London Bridge station, a major terminal for commuters across the southeast of England, was closed.
Julian Hasslacher, 40, from Bristol, was supposed to deliver legal documents to a law firm near London Bridge by 4 p.m. but was unable to get through because of a police cordon.
“It’s difficult to say I guess,” he said, when asked for his reaction. “A strange mixture of shock and you know I guess inevitability that this is something we live with now. It’s sad.”
Susan Vinn, 57, who works in an office with views of London Bridge said she first noticed something was amiss when crowds of people started running around the building.
“We were out here having a cigarette,” she said. “Horrible, really — it’s become a way of life hasn’t it?”
She said she didn’t worry about her safety, however.
“You just have to get on with it,” she said. “If you worried about it every day you’d never get on a train and come into London and you wouldn’t have a job and you couldn’t work.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan thanked emergency services in a statement.
“We must — and we will — stay resolute in our determination to stand strong and united in the face of terror,” he said. “Those who seek to attack us and divide us will never succeed.”
The White House confirmed that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the attack.