British politician Jo Cox dies after attack in Birstall, police say

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A police forensic photographer works at the scene outside the library in Birstall where Labour MP Jo Cox was shot on June 16, 2016. OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — British politician Jo Cox has died as a result of her injuries following an attack Thursday, Dee Collins, Temporary Chief Constable West Yorkshire Police told reporters.

Police have arrested a 52-year-old man in connection with an attack in Birstall, near Leeds in northern England, the police statement said.

“At 12:53 today, police were called to a report of an incident on Market Street, Birstall, where a woman in her 40s had suffered serious injuries and is in a critical condition,” said the statement.

Cox was attacked outside the Birstall library after holding a regular public meeting with constituents, said Robert Light, a Conservative councilor from nearby Birkenshaw.

British media reported she was shot and stabbed, citing witnesses, but police would not confirm that.

Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two, was elected the member of Parliament for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire in May 2015.

Fellow Labour MP Mike Gapes described her as a rising star in the party, “one of the most effective of the newly elected Labour MPs last year.”

Nationalist party denies involvement

Britain First, a fringe nationalist political party, issued a statement denying any connection in the attack.

The statement said that reports that the alleged assailant shouted “Britain First” during the attack were unconfirmed, and added that the party “would never encourage behavior of this sort.”

“This is pure hearsay at the moment,” read the statement on Britain First’s website. “As an MP and a mother, we pray that Jo Cox makes a full recovery.”

Brexit campaigning suspended

News of the attack on the politician, an extremely rare occurrence in the UK, prompted widespread shock and outpouring of sympathy across the political spectrum.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jo and her family,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that the “thoughts of the whole Labour Party are with her and her family at this time.”

Campaign groups on both sides of the debate on next week’s referendum over whether Britain should leave the European Union announced they were halting their operations Thursday in the wake of the attack.

Cameron announced on Twitter that he was cancelling a rally Thursday night in Gibraltar for the “Stronger In” campaign, saying: “It’s right that all campaigning has been stopped after the terrible attack on Jo Cox.”

The pro-EU group “Stronger In” announced it was suspending its campaign for the day, while the Vote Leave campaign headquarters said its campaign bus was returning to London.

Cox is a supporter of Britain voting to remain in the EU in the forthcoming referendum on the issue to be held next week. Her husband and children were on a “Stronger In” boat campaigning on the River Thames Wednesday, she tweeted at the time.

‘Heartbreaking’ attack

Before entering Parliament last year, Cox worked for aid agency Oxfam and for a pro-European campaign organization, according to her website.

“She’s had a big impact already,” fellow MP Gapes told CNN. “She’s been one of the most outspoken people calling for more to be done to stop (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) barrel bombing in Syria and to get humanitarian corridors to help for the refugees from Syria.”

Lisa Holmes, a Conservative councilor from Birkenshaw who knows Cox, told CNN she was staggered by the “extraordinary” incident.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she told CNN. “I’m just stunned, I just think it’s horrendous.”

She said Birstall was “not an area that’s known for having problems with violence.”

While attacks on British members of parliament are rare, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, was stabbed in London in 2010.

“Frankly it’s a real shock,” said Gapes. “We’ll all be praying for her and hoping that she makes it.”

Her husband, Brendan Cox, tweeted a picture of her standing in front a boat on the River Thames. According to her website, Cox lives on a boat on the Thames during her time in London.

A man nearby also suffered slight injuries, the police statement said. Extra police have been deployed in the area to reassure the community.