12 arrested after deadly London terror attack; ISIS claims responsibility

LONDON —  Authorities made 12 arrests and conducted exhaustive searches across an East London neighborhood Sunday after a rampage that left seven dead, dozens more injured and once again brought chaos and fear to the streets of America's closest European ally.

Three suspected terrorists also were killed in Saturday night's attack, and 21 of the 48 injured remained in critical condition late Sunday. The attack at iconic London Bridge and a nearby market was the third terrorist strike in Britain in less than three months.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks, the SITE intelligence group said Sunday. Eyewitnesses said they heard the men shout "this is for Allah,” British media reported.

"It is time to say enough is enough," Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday. She called for tougher measures to contain Islamic extremism, saying the recent attacks are not directly linked, but “terrorism breeds terrorism.”

“They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism,” she said. “It is an ideology that claims our Western values and freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam."

May also called for international agreements to regulate cyberspace and deny terrorism the "safe space it needs to breed." Twitter and Google were among major tech firms issuing statements saying they were working to deny terrorists an online voice.

Police said a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge, then drove to the nearby Borough Market where the assailants went on a stabbing rampage. Armed officers confronted three suspects, who police said were wearing "hoax" suicide vests, at the market. All three were shot dead.

Mark Rowley, head of counterterrorism for Metropolitan Police, said all the attackers are thought to be dead. He said eight officers fired about 50 shots, and that one member of the public suffered a gunshot wound. The injuries to that person were not believed to be critical, he said.

"The situation these officers were confronted with was critical, a matter of life and death," Rowley said. "Three armed men, wearing what appeared to be suicide belts, had already attacked and killed members of the public and had to be stopped immediately."

Rowley lauded the courage of officers who ran toward the attack as it unfolded.

"I am humbled by the bravery of an officer who will rush towards a potential suicide bomber thinking only of protecting others," he said.

Counterterrorism police units made the arrests Sunday during a sweep in the suburban community of Barking, and more homes in the area were being searched, Rowley said. The alleged connection to the attack was not revealed. Rowley said investigators were working to learn more about the attackers, their connections and whether they were assisted by others not at the scene.

"We will work relentlessly to establish the facts," he said.

Some of the 48 wounded taken to local hospitals were believed to be suffering serious and life threatening injuries, police said. Among them was a British Transport Police officer hospitalized in stable condition after showing "enormous courage in the face of danger, as did many others who were at the scene and rushed to help," Chief Constable Paul Crowther said.

Daniel Ansah, 50, a security guard at Tito's restaurant near London Bridge, was present when the attack unfolded. He and others at the restaurant helped some of the wounded.

"It was horrific," he said. "It could have happened to me, too. I'm traumatized."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was "appalled and furious that these twisted and cowardly terrorists deliberately targeted innocent Londoners" and tourists. He urged all Londoners to "remain calm and vigilant today and over the days ahead."

President Trump tweeted solidarity with Britain, tweeting "WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!" But he also took shots at political correctness and gun control.

“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse,” Trump tweeted.

The secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan, also condemned the attack.

“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons," he said "That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting, only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith."

Four French citizens were among the wounded. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the “abominable and cowardly” attack and said France will continue fighting “terrorism with all our strength alongside Britain and all other countries concerned.”

Britain has weathered two other terror attacks in recent months. On March 22, five people were killed in London after Khalid Masood rammed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament. Masood was shot dead by police. The Islamic State said a "soldier" from the group carried out the attack. Police later said Masood had no links to extremist groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.

On May 22, Salman Abedi, a British-born suicide bomber, killed 22 people and injured 59 others at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, northwestern England. Abedi died at the scene. ISIS claimed responsibility but that claim cannot be verified.

The attack Saturday came on the eve of a benefit concert by Grande for victims of last month's Manchester Arena bombing in aid of the victims and their families. Police said the event would still take place, with additional security in place.

Saturday's attack came on the eve of a benefit concert that Grande held in Manchester for victims of last month's bombing to aid the victims and their families. The concert drew a huge crowd and heavy security.

The major political parties suspended campaigning Sunday ahead of Thursday's parliamentary elections.

Bacon reported from McLean, Va.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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