A TERROR attack in which a serving British soldier has been ‘beheaded’ in a London street has been described as ‘truly shocking’ by Prime Minister David Cameron.
By: Dion Dassanayake
One man has died and two others – believed to be his assailants – are in a serious condition after the ‘machete-style’ assault in Woolwich.
Police have confirmed that they are treating the incident as terrorism and it is believed the killing was likely a politically-motivated Islamist attack.
A Whitehall source claimed the men were heard to shout ‘Allah Akbar’ as they attacked the victim in broad daylight.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who described the incident as ‘sickening and barbaric’, has held a one hour meeting tonight of COBRA, the Government’s emergency committee.
They were briefed on the details on the killing, and told security has been tighetened at the Woolwich barracks along with increased security at all London barracks.
Mr Cameron, who is currently on a trip in Paris for a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, described the attack as ‘the most appaling crime’ and ‘truly shocking’.
He said: “Tonight our thoughts should be with the victim, the family and their friends.
“We have had these sort of attacks before in our country and we never buckled in the face of them.”
Police were forced to close John Wilson Street some 200 yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks, adjacent to Woolwich Common, the historical home of the Royal Artillery.
One man was confirmed dead at the scene of the incident in Woolwich, south east London, and two other men were taken to hospital, one of them in a serious condition, a London Ambulance Service spokeswoman said. It is thought police confronted and shot the two assailants.
The barracks, also known as the Woolwich station, now houses a number of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and independent companies of the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards.
According to barmaid at a local Wetherspoons pub, her friend who is a soldier told her him and his fellow soldiers have been confined to the barracks following the brutal attack.
Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford said: “At approximately 14:20 we were called to reports of an assault in John Wilson Street, Woolwich where one man was being assaulted by two other men.
“A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm.”
Commander Letchford confirmed that the two men, who had been seen carrying weapons, were shot by police and taken to hospital and are being treated for their injuries.
He was unable to give any details on the victim of the attack.
Shocking footage obtained by ITV News has shown a man believed to be one of the Woolwich attackers covered in blood and wielding two knives.
It is thought the footage was taken moments after the attack, and it he says: “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The man later adds: “I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same.
“You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”
Woolwich and Greenwich MP Nick Raynsford said he had spoken to both borough commander Richard Wood and Lieutenant Colonel Bob Christopher at Woolwich Barracks about the incident.
Mr Raynsford said: “The incident occurred early afternoon. One individual is dead, two others are seriously injured and in hospital.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen is being kept informed of the events in Woolwich and is concerned by news of the attack.
They added the Queen will visit the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery at Woolwich barracks on May 31, a trip that was planned before news of the attack broke.
The Prime Minister will be cutting his trip to the French capital short and returning tonight to attend a COBRA meeting tomorrow.
His party compatriot and London Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted that the attack was ‘sickening deluded’ and that it was an ‘unforgivable act of violence’.
In a statement Mrs May added: “It has been confirmed to me that a man has been brutally murdered this afternoon in South East London. Two other men were shot by armed police and they are currently receiving treatment for their injuries.
“I have called a COBRA meeting where I will receive further briefing. This is a sickening and barbaric attack.”
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) have said they are urgently looking into reports that the incident involved a soldier but had no further comment.
The incident occurred some 200 yards from the barracks, adjacent to Woolwich Common, and is the historical home of the Royal Artillery.
Twitter users gave rolling updates on what they saw, claiming that onlookers were shocked by the scenes they had witnessed.
Eyewitnesses said a man wearing an Army charity ‘Help for Heroes’ T-shirt was attacked with a machete and dumped in the street.
One witness, identified only as James, told LBC radio that he and his partner saw two black men attack the young victim with knives, including a meat cleaver.
He said: “They were hacking at this poor guy, literally.
“They were hacking at him, chopping him, cutting him.”
The witness was fighting back the tears during the interview, saying that attack was ‘horrendous’ and comparing the two men to ‘animals’.
He said a number of ‘brave’ women had tried to shield the man who was on the ground from the two men.
James said that the men stood around waving knives and a gun, and even asked nearby people to take pictures of them.
Pools of blood and weapons were spotted at the scene.
A woman working in an office overlooking the street said that she could see three bodies lying in the road.
She said: “All the bodies are within about 30-40 metres of each other. I could see armed police all over the place.”There was a lot of commotion, police running around in all different directions, as if they were looking for other people.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned the attack, calling it ‘truly barbaric’ and asking for members of all communities to come together in an act of solidarity.
A statement said: “This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly.
“Our thoughts are with the victim and his family.”
While UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage described the attack as ‘appaling’, but said he hopes it is an isolated incident.
Mr Farage said: “We are all left horrified by this appalling attack on the peaceful streets of London, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the young man who was killed and those who were injured.
“I hope and believe that this is an isolated incident and appeal for calm amongst all our communities.”
London Air Ambulance confirmed that one person has been airlifted from the scene, but would not confirm the nature of the injuries or where they were taken.
On its Twitter account, the Metropolitan Police helicopter team called the incident “serious”.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Officers have responded to an incident in John Wilson Street at 2.20pm today.”We believe at this stage officers were called to reports of an assault.”
A spokeswoman for London Ambulance Service added: “We were called a 2.20pm to reports of an incident at John Wilson Street.
“We sent two responders in cars, three ambulance crews, two duty officers and London Air Ambulance were called out.
“We still have staff at the scene.”
Amazing Eyewitness Accounts Here:
PM Cameron’s Response: