LONDON — At least three people died and 20 were injured when an attacker rammed a car into crowds of people before stabbing a police officer in the grounds of the UK Parliament.
One woman was pulled alive from the River Thames amid chaos in the area, the heart of political life in Britain. The assailant also died, police said, announcing a “full counter-terrorism investigation”.
Parliament was placed on lockdown and lawmakers were forced to remain in the main debating chamber of the House of Commons as firearms officers responded to the incident outside.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the incident was “being treated as a terrorist attack until the police know otherwise.”
Pictures showed scenes of carnage in the aftermath of the attack, which happened as parliament was in session. One member of the British government gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to one of those injured.
Three people are confirmed to have died during the incident. Police officer stabbed in the grounds of the UK Parliament. Attacker was also killed in the incident. Large section of central London in lockdown. Gates to Buckingham Palace closed. Social media video shows bodies strewn on Westminster bridge. Witnesses describe pedestrians mowed down by car.
Incident began near Westminster Bridge
London’s Metropolitan Police said on Twitter they were called at approximately 2:40 pm to reports of a firearms incident. Proceedings in the House of Commons were suspended with dozens of MPs locked inside.
Images emerged of a car crashed into the perimeter gate of Parliament, and witnesses later told CNN that they saw the vehicle mow down pedestrians.
Police soon put the Westminster area on lockdown, securing roads, Parliament buildings and the Westminster underground station. But that zone soon expanded to a larger part of central London.
The London Eye, popular with tourists, was among areas in lockdown.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “There has been a serious incident near to Parliament Square this afternoon which is being treated as a terrorist attack until the police know otherwise.
“I have spoken to the Acting Commissioner. The Metropolitan Police Service is dealing with the incident and an urgent investigation is underway. My thoughts are with those affected and their families.
“I would like to express my thanks to the police and emergency services who work so hard to keep us safe and show tremendous bravery in exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Police said in a statement that a full response unit had been sent to the scene, along with ambulance crews and air ambulances.
“We have declared a major incident and our priority is to assess patients and ensure that they are treated and taken to hospital as soon as possible.”
Police appealed for anyone with photos or video of the incident to pass them on to police.
Commander BJ Harrington said “There are a number of casualties including police officers.”
Parliament on lockdown
Leader of the House, David Lidington, told MPs in session that a serious incident had taken place “within the estate.”
“It seems that a police officer has been stabbed, that the alleged assailant was shot by armed police,” he said.
“An air ambulance is currently attending the scene to remove the casualties. There are also reports of further violent incidents in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster but I hope colleagues on all sides will appreciate that it’d be wrong of me to go into further details here until we have confirmation from the police and from the House security authorities about what is going on.”
Members of parliament were asked to keep away from windows.
They were later due to be evacuated in groups of 20, MP Simon Danczuk told CNN by telephone from inside.
Around half an hour after the attack, former Cabinet minister Anna Soubry said on Twitter she and Security Minister Ben Wallace were ordered into the Parliament lobby at gun point by police.
“Colleagues taken out of the library at gun point by counter terrorist armed police officers,” she tweeted.
Parliament was in the middle of a vote when the incident occurred, MP Sir Gerald Howarth said the House of Commons said. “It appears to be very, very serious indeed,” he said.
“The Leader of the House has told us it’s been confirmed that one police officer here has been stabbed. It appeared that a car was coming towards the House of Commons mowing down pedestrians on the way and the driver then got access to the parliamentary estate stabbed a police officer and was shot.”
Scotland’s lawmakers, following a deadly terror attack at Westminster, shelved plans to vote on the prospect of a second independence referendum.
The Scottish Parliament suspended business for the day after members urged Presiding Officer Ken Mackintosh to cancel the session out of respect for victims of the incident in London.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon shared a message on Twitter, writing: “My thoughts are with everyone in and around Westminster caught up in this dreadful incident – and with the brave emergency services.”
Later, she added: “My condolences to the bereaved families. Thoughts also with those injured and solidarity with the people of London.”
Eyewitnesses report chaotic scenes
People were photographed running in a panic from the scene.
An eyewitness told CNN that he heard a car collision at Westminster Bridge and saw at least five people on the ground.
“I heard — rather than saw — what I took to be a collision, like a car hitting a sheet of metal, and then I looked again and I saw people down on the streets, on the tarmac,” witness Radek Sikorski told CNN by phone.
“I saw in all, five people down by a car, including one person bleeding heavily from the head, and another person lying unconscious.”
“I saw them seconds after impact, but there’s also a hospital right there by Westminster Bridge.”
Richard Poet, 62, who was visiting London from Brighton and his partner were leaving the Tate Britain gallery when he heard “great crashes.”
“I thought it was a wrecking ball. It didn’t sound like guns or anything.”
Craig Meichan, 20, a student from Ormskirk near Liverpool, was on a field trip with around 15 others and had left Parliament just a moment before. He was shaking as he told CNN his part was separated into three groups.
“It sounded like a car backfiring, police began shouting and they started cordoning off the area,” he said, adding that he believed his tutor was still locked inside.
“I’m a bit shaken up, you never expect this to happen to you. When it does it’s an indescribable feeling.”
US President Donald Trump at a Women in healthcare panel told reporters he was getting updates from London.
“Some big news having to do with London just happened,” he said.
Mark Toner, acting spokesperson for the US State Department. said officials were closely following the situation.
“Our hearts go out to those affected. We stand ready to assist in any way the UK authorities would find helpful,” he said.
Member of Parliament gives assistance
There was an unexpected face among the first responders to Wednesday’s attack. Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative Member of Parliament, was seen tending to an injured man lying outside of Westminster Palace.
Surrounded by a throng of police officers and emergency personnel, Ellwood was seen crouching on the cobblestone street applying pressure to the bare, bloodied torso of the man. Press Association photojournalist Stefan Rousseau captured the moment, but was unavailable to comment when asked by CNN.
A few yards away, another person was also receiving medical attention as law enforcement enveloped the premises. Armed police were called in to assist in the situation, which is being described by the British government as a “terrorist incident until we know otherwise.”
Before his political career, Ellwood served in the British Army for five years, leaving with the rank of captain.
At the scene, Ellwood’s face was smeared with blood. Sadly, this is not the first time such an attack has marked his life. Ellwood’s brother Jon died in the 2002 bombings in Bali.
Eyewitness Hugh Dickinson, a 21-year-old student from High Wycombe, posted a picture of the minister on Twitter, showing the minister bleeding, but saying “he looked to be fine”, the Press Association said.
• First reports emerge of loud bangs or gunshots outside the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the UK government in the heart of the Westminster area.
• The Metropolitan Police say they are investigating reports of an incident in Westminster. A short time later they tweet that it is being treated as a firearms incident.
• The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, suspends the sitting at 2:44 p.m. local time and tells Members of Parliament they should wait in the Chamber.
• Fifteen minutes later, David Lidington, the Leader of the House of Commons, says the alleged assailant was shot by police and an air ambulance is at the scene to remove the casualties. “We should remain under suspension and the chamber should remain in lockdown until we receive advice it is okay to go back to normal procedures,” Lidington adds.
• People posting on Twitter describe a car “collision” on Westminster Bridge and say they can see people lying dead or injured on the road. Images emerged of a car crashed into the perimeter gate of Parliament, and witnesses later told CNN that they saw the vehicle mow down pedestrians.
• Police clear the area, which is popular with tourists as well as being home to many government offices. Westminster Underground station is closed and bus routes are diverted away from the area.
• Britain’s Press Association news agency reports that Prime Minister Theresa May was seen being ushered into a car and driven away from the area.
• Police say they are treating the incident as an act of terrorism, “until they know otherwise.”
• Met Police Commander B.J. Harrington then tells reporters outside Scotland Yard that “a full counter terrorism investigation is underway,” although police remain open-minded on the motive. He adds: “We received a number of calls, which included a person in the river, a car in a collision with pedestrians and a man that was armed with a knife.” Harrington says there are “a number of casualties including police officers” but he cannot give details of their injuries.
• Security will be stepped up across London as people travel home from work, Harrington says, with more armed and unarmed officers on patrol. He urges Londoners to be vigilant.
• London Ambulance Service says at least 10 people have been treated on Westminster Bridge and that a number of hospitals have been placed on alert.
• Theresa May is to chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the immediate response to the Westminster incident, Downing Street says. The Cobra committee brings together government ministers with senior officials of the emergency services and security and intelligence agencies.
• A woman has been pulled from the Thames near Westminster Bridge alive but with injuries, Port of London Authority spokesman Martin Garside tells CNN. “I don’t know how she got into the water,” he said. She is undergoing urgent medical care for her injuries.
• At least three people, including a police officer, have been killed, and at least 20 injured, Met Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Rowley tells reporters. He says the attacker was also killed. Police currently believe there is only one attacker but are continuing to investigate, he says.