London’s Metropolitan police said Friday that an officer shot and killed a man wearing a fake explosive device following a stabbing incident near London Bridge that left two people dead.
Three other victims were reported in serious condition in the knife attack that police officials called a “terrorist incident.”
Health officials said one of the injured was in critical but stable condition, one was stable and the third had less serious injuries.
Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said 28-year-old Usman Khan was attending a program that works to educate prisoners when he launched the attack, killing a man and a woman and injuring three others just yards from the site of a deadly 2017 van and knife rampage. Basu said the suspect appeared to be wearing a bomb vest but it turned out to be “a hoax explosive device.”
The attack raises difficult questions for Britain’s government and security services. Police said Khan was convicted in 2012 of terrorism offenses and released in December 2018 “on license,” which means he had to meet certain conditions or face recall to prison. Several British media outlets reported that he was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “long argued” that it was a “mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early.”
“It is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists, that I think the public will want to see,” he said.
Johnson, who chaired a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee late Friday, said more police would be patrolling the streets in the coming days “for reassurance purposes.” Police said they were treating the stabbings as a terrorist attack and were not actively looking for any other suspects.
The violence erupted less than two weeks before Britain holds a national election Dec. 12. The main political parties temporarily suspended campaigning in London as a mark of respect.
Hours after the London attack, police in The Hague reported a similar stabbing on a major shopping street in that Dutch city that left three minors injured. The victims were all later released from the hospital. Police were searching for a middle-aged man in a gray tracksuit as a possible suspect, the BBC reported.
It was not immediately clear if incidents were related. Police spokeswoman Marije Kuiper told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that it was not clear if the stabbing in The Hague was a terror incident.
The ordeal unfolded after police were called to a stabbing incident near London Bridge shortly before 1 p.m.
Video posted on social media showed several people wrestling with a man wielding a knife at one end of the busy bridge that links the city’s business district with the south bank of the River Thames.
As officers pulled people out of the fray, one officer shot and killed the suspect.
Basu said there were concerns the man might be wearing explosives, but that police “believe a device strapped to the body of the suspect is a hoax explosive device.”
He said officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are now leading this investigation.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who announced the deaths of the two victims, said more armed and unarmed police would be patrolling London streets.
She said police were “working at full-tilt to understand exactly what has happened and whether anyone else was involved.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan earlier said police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
The mayor commended the “breathtaking heroism” of the members of public who intervened in the incident, running toward the suspect and pinning him down.
London Bridge was the scene of a June 2017 attack when Islamic State-inspired attackers ran down people on the bridge, killing two, before stabbing several people to death in nearby Borough Market.
The BBC reported that its correspondent, John McManus, was at the scene at the time and saw a group fighting on the bridge, with several men attacking one man.
“Police then quickly arrived, including armed police, and then a number of shots were fired at this man,” McManus said.
The Guardian newspaper quoted staff at the nearby Monument underground station as confirming that five people were injured in the attack. The station was closed following the ordeal as police swarmed the area.
The incident brought cars and trucks to a standstill on the busy bridge. Video footage showed police pointing guns at one truck before moving to check its container.
One witness, Amanda Hunter said she was on a bus crossing the bridge when she heard shots.
The bus “all of a sudden stopped and there was commotion and I looked out the window and I just saw these three police officers going over to a man,” she told the BBC.
“It seemed like there was something in his hand, I’m not 100% sure, but then one of the police officers shot him.”
In a video posted on social media, two men can be seen struggling on the bridge before officers pull a man in civilian clothes off a black-clad man who is on the ground.
Political leaders expressed shock and sorrow at Friday’s attack.
“We will not be cowed by those who threaten us,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “We must and we will stand together to reject hatred and division.”
Both Labour and the Conservatives suspended campaigning in the city after the attack and the prime minister was also canceling political events for Saturday.
In March 2017, an attacker fatally struck four people with a car on nearby Westminster Bridge then fatally stabbed a police officer before security forces shot and killed him in a courtyard outside Parliament.
Contributing: Associated Press