At Least Three Dead, Twenty Injured, In Apparent Terror Attack In London

An apparent terror attack outside Parliament in London.

Parliament Lockdown

At least three people are dead and twenty injured in what police in London are treating as a terrorist attack:

LONDON — An assailant fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates to Britain’s Parliament compound and a vehicle plowed through terrified pedestrians along a landmark bridge Wednesday in what authorities treated as a “terrorist incident.”

The suspected attacker was shot amid a range of casualties over some of the most famous streets in central London.

Crumpled bodies lay on the Westminster Bridge over the River Thames as a Foreign Office official — covered in the blood of the stabbed police officer — tried to save his life. British media later reported that the police officer died, and a hospital official said at least one civilian was killed.

Even before full details emerged, the apparent attacks and chaos were certain to raise security levels in London and other Western capitals and bring further scrutiny on counterterrorism measures.

Meanwhile, authorities tried to piece together the sequence of events at one of the city’s most highly protected sites. The questions included whether the bedlam on the nearby Westminster Bridge was part of a coordinated attack that possibly employed elements of past terrorist strikes — including vehicles ramming crowds in Nice and Berlin last year.

“We are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” said a Twitter message from London Metropolitan Police.

Britain’s opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, praised police for quick intervention in an “extremely serious” situation, which put Parliament chambers and offices on full lockdown for more than two hours and forced the closure of the famous London Eye Ferris wheel.

Britain’s Press Association news agency, citing a doctor at a London hospital, said one woman was killed and other people were under medical treatment. The report could not be independently verified.

Metropolitan Police Cmdr. B.J. Harrington said there were “a number of casualties including police officers,” but did not give further details or figures.

The attack occurred on Parliament’s busiest day of the week, when the prime minister appears for her weekly questions session and the House of Commons is packed with visitors.

The Palace of Westminster, the ancient seat of the British Parliament, is surrounded by heavy security, with high walls, armed officers and metal detectors. But just outside the compound are busy roads packed with cars and pedestrians.

Britain has been on high alert for terrorist attacks for several years, with top security officials warning that a strike was all but inevitable. But until Wednesday, the country had been spared the sort of mass-casualty attacks that have afflicted France, Belgium and Germany in recent years.

David Lidington, a member of Parliament, said a police officer was stabbed and the suspected assailant was shot.

“Suddenly police cars drove down the road and locked it down. People threw themselves to the ground and hid behind trash cans, walls and in cafes. But the situation seemed to be under control fairly quickly,” said Lee Stevens, 34, who was standing outside Downing Street, about 500 yards from Parliament and near the offices of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Among those providing emergency aid was Tobias Ellwood, a senior official at the Foreign Office and a British military veteran. Photos showed Ellwood’s face streaked with blood after supplying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a police officer who had been stabbed just inside the gates of the Parliamentary compound.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that among those wounded in the vehicle attack were a group of French students

Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said the rapid response suggested that police “were expecting that an attack was highly likely for some time.”


In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was “ready to assist in any way.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it was in “close contact with our British counterparts to monitor the tragic events and to support the ongoing investigation.” It noted that U.S. security threat levels remained unchanged.

A year ago to the day, attackers carried out three coordinated suicide bombings in Belgium, killing 32 civilians and injuring more than 300 others in two blasts at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station in the Belgian capital. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, in which three perpetrators were also killed. Another bomb that failed to explode was found at the airport.

As of the time I’m writing this post, there has been no claim of responsibility from any organization and British authorities have not released any information regarding the identity of the attacker or attackers. NBC News, meanwhile is reporting that the apparent assailant was shot by police outside the gates that would lead directly to the buildings housing Parliament itself and that at least one of the dead was a police officer, although that has yet to be confirmed at this time.. Nonetheless, the pattern of this attack follows that which we saw last year in Nice, France when a person apparently inspired by ISIS rammed a holiday crowd near the beach, killing 87 people and injuring more than 400 others as well as following a pattern apparently recommended by ISIS propaganda to people in the West. We’ve also seen attacks similar to this in places ranging from Canada to Turkey in recent years. Given all of that, it’s likely safe to assume that we’re dealing with what is likely to at least turn out to be a ‘lone wolf’ terror attack not dissimilar to those that we’ve seen in the United States in recent years in places such as Boston, Orlando, and San Bernardino.

Assuming that this is an act of terror, whether inspired or planned overseas, it would be the first serious attack in the United Kingdom since the attacks in July 2005 that left more than 50 people dead and 700 injured and seems sure to add to the ongoing political debate in Great Britain regarding its relationship with Europe. It was just a few days ago that Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would begin the Brexit process at the end of March, and a large part of last year’s ‘Leave’ campaign included raising the specter of terrorists being able to easily enter Britain from other parts of Europe. Depending on who this attacker is, it’s likely that this incident will be used by those forces to reinforce their argument and pressure the government to move quicker than they might otherwise like to in the process of leaving the E.U. so that Britain is no longer required to allow free passage from Europe to all who wish to visit. It’s also likely to put the issue of terrorism back on the front burner around the world after a period of time in which we’ve gone without a major attack in the west since last summer. That could influence elections upcoming in both France and Germany where government policies toward refugees from Syria and elsewhere has been a serious controversy after terror attacks in the past. If nothing else, though, this incident reminds us of just how random these attacks can be since it doesn’t appear that there was any advance alert that an attack was imminent.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Policing, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Modulo Myself says:

    As long as there is intervention by western militaries in the Middle East and Central Asia this is going to happen. When you honor a Navy SEAL for dying so that Saudi Arabia can fight Yemeni rebels you are also honoring the gunships that hovered in the sky and fired full-throttle on a village (killing 20 civilians) because the attack went bad. You can’t just wantonly kill civilians and expect somehow that nobody will want to take revenge.

    And let’s also be honest–England or France does not have a problem with refugees. They both have huge populations of people from their former colonies. The guy who drove the truck in Nice wasn’t some random refugee. He was from Tunisia. The idea that France or England can separate the parochial right-wing ideas from countries from their collective pasts is delusional.

  2. Lit3Bolt says:

    Prayers for the dead and hopes for speedy recoveries for the wounded.

    Hopefully they ID this loon.

    Apparently this was due to it being the one year anniversary of the Brussels airport bombings.

    So I guess along with 9/11, 4/19, 7/7, 11/13, and too many others to mention, along with regular holidays and religious events, we have to have heightened security on anniversaries of these attacks.

  3. bandit says:

    @Modulo Myself: Thanks for the hateful idiocy.

    England or France does not have a problem with refugees.

    Maybe that makes sense in your dementia addled mind but the near constant but I’m sure they think of the regular terrorist murderers, rapes and riots are somewhat of a problem.

  4. bill says:

    @Modulo Myself: funny, but sheetheads have been attacking anything they can for as long as i can remember. they don’t have the ability to sustain any sort of successful non-oil based) society yet alone wage a conventional war against the west so they take the cowards way out and blow up/shoot/stab/run over/etc. planes/airports/cars/mosques/etc. with no thought of the civilians they kill.

    yes, these are the people who founded the cradle of civilization, yet they’ve regressed for some reason…..what could it be?!

  5. Tyrell says:

    Mayhem in London: another week, another terrorist attack. Maybe some of the judges should go over there and talk to those people about their immigration opinions.
    Meanwhile, Maryland high school student attacked by illegal immigrants, angry parents demand answers, school and other officials make excuses instead of being accountable.
    The “sanctuary” policy in action !

  6. michael reynolds says:

    The people of London elected a Muslim mayor. But then Londoners aren’t the huge cowards people like @bandit: @Tyrell: are.

    For the record, my wife and I have already begun laying the groundwork for a move to London in two years after our youngest is out of school. This attack changes nothing. But then Katherine and I aren’t wimps or weaklings.

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    London is a wonderful city, isn’t it? I visited for the first time in 2009 for work. I’d wanted to see it since i was about 8. And it did not disappoint. And England gets even better outside of London. Had so many good meals in little country pubs and tiny curry shops.

    I’l probably head out there again in the next few years. And when I do, I’ll go see Big Ben again because to hell with terrorists.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Look me up, we can drink lukewarm beer and drink too-small shots.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal_10000: @michael reynolds:

    I lived in London for a year and a half and finally scampered away because of the damn bloody dark winters and the rain all the time. It gets to you, even if you spend most of your time with your nose in a book. (speaking from personal experience.) I thought I was tough after all those New England winters but England really really got to me.

    When you find you are visiting BELGIUM for the sun….sigh….

  10. grumpy realist says:
  11. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. Those of you who are scared to visit large cities because of “terrorist threat!” had better crawl under your beds and snivel some more. Hell, I lived in the most dangerous part of Japan when it comes to earthquakes and got used to that. I lived in London when the IRA was running around setting off bombs. What do you guys want? A signed affidavit saying that nothing bad will ever happen to you, ever?


  12. CB says:


    Centuries of colonialism it’s sudden collapse after WW1 and 2, leaving behind broken states.

    Or is that not the answer you wanted.

  13. Mr. Bluster says:

    Bill’s Sheetheads
    KKK announces victory parade for Donald Trump

  14. Jeremy says:
  15. KM says:

    And now we are learning the attacker is born there, not an immigrant.

    But keep blaming the innocent people fleeing from nutcases like this and pretend your own countrymen can’t be the problem. Insanity and murderous fervor can happen anywhere to any population. Keeping out the Other won’t do a damn thing when the guy next to you is the one with the knives.

  16. Slugger says:
    There are terroristic murders closer to home than London. I expect denunciations of these events from the highest levels of our comity.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    The sun issue does worry me a lot. I am very sun-dependent. Which is why there are frequent flights to Spain or the Algarve or Malta included in our budgeting. I’ve generally had eerily good luck with British weather, even up in Scotland, but admittedly I’m usually there for various lit festivals which are generally in spring or summer.

  18. Pch101 says:

    The IRA and the Luftwaffe were much worse than this.

    Londoners are a tough bunch. Some of the right-wingers who post here, not so much.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: Looks like the guy who has been phoning in the threats to Jewish centers is a) Jewish b) in Israel c) a few picnic forks short of a basket.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: My boyfriend and I figured that this is why pubs are such convival gathering places in England, especially in the winter, when it is a) cold b) dark c) rainy d) with nothing to do.

    I remember running out to Oxford at one point to visit a friend and he told me later that was the only day they had that summer with sun.

    Don’t be fooled by the tourist ads–sun is Not Standard, even in the summer. The Rosemary & Thyme TV series (about a pair of gardeners who solve crimes) finally couldn’t be funded after the third season because of the difficulty in finding sunny days for filming.

    I guess it could be worse–it could be Finland. (The Lonely Planet Guide to Finland used to recommend against visiting in winter: “when everyone is drunk, depressed, or trying to kill you.”)

  21. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @bill: Because, as conservatives, they don’t want to change their reactions to the world around them as their physical and social situations change?

  22. Matt says:

    @grumpy realist: I was in London for three days and the weather was sunny and nice. I had a great time there even though I was only 16 or 17. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I even visited some pubs and they didn’t even card me when I ordered some local beers.