A man believed to be a British soldier was allegedly beheaded by two men, reportedly Islamic extremists, wielding machetes. Peter Jukes reports from London.
In what the BBC is calling a “terror attack,” a man was killed in broad daylight in Woolwich, London, on Wednesday afternoon. Two apparent suspects were later shot by police. According to the local MP, Nick Raynsford, the victim was an off-duty soldier from the nearby army barracks as well as a local primary schoolteacher.
Two men, who are suspected to be Islamic extremists, reportedly attacked a soldier wearing a “Help for Heroes” T-shirt, just after 2 p.m. in Woolwich, in southeast London, with machetes. The suspects allegedly yelled “Allahu Akbar” before the attack, witnesses told the BBC. The attack also reportedly continued long after the victim was killed, and some witnesses said they saw the body being dragged.
According to a Scotland Yard spokesman, police were called to reports of an assault at 2:20 on Wednesday afternoon. “One man was being assaulted by two other men,” said Commander Simon Letchford. “A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm.”
Early eyewitness reports indicated the victim was hit by a car, although that has not been confirmed, before the attackers went after the victim with meat cleavers. One local resident, Julia Wilders, told the Press Association she had seen the victim lying on the ground. “We were driving back and my husband said to me, ‘Don’t look, they’re resuscitating someone.’ But apparently they were stabbing him.
“We went back down there,” Wilders said, “and saw a black man with a gun. My husband phoned the police and I went to the school to tell them. About 20 minutes later I went back there and another man had the gun and the taller man had two meat cleavers.”
Her husband, Graham Wilders, told the BBC that he saw armed police arrived and confronted the suspects. “All I heard was four shots when the Trojan [firearm officers] people turned up. These men actually went for the police with the machetes, knife, and handgun.”
Uncorroborated reports from eyewitnesses suggest the victim was beheaded, but police will only confirm the death of one man, and that “two men, whom we believe from early reports to have been carrying weapons, were shot by police. They were taken to separate London hospitals; they are receiving treatment for their injuries.
On Wednesday evening ITV broadcast footage of one of the alleged assailants, apparently holding a bloody machete, addressing the camera with a series of political statements: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” he said.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, tweeted: “This afternoon’s attack in Woolwich is a sickening deluded and unforgivable act of violence. My thoughts are with the victim and his family.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron is returning from a European trip to chair a meeting of COBRA, the senior government committee that meets at time of national or regional crisis, which will also be attended by Boris Johnson. In a press conference shortly after the incident, Cameron said there were strong indicators that it was a terrorist attack, and insisted that “we will not buckle” under the threat of terrorist attacks.