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London attacked: Five killed, many injured outside British parliament

Attacker drives at pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabs police officer near London parliament before being shot dead
A car hit railings in central London outside Parliament Square (screengrab)

At least five people were killed and 20 others injured on Wednesday when an attacker rammed his car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer outside the British Houses of Parliament.

Police described the attack as a "terrorist incident" but said they were "open-minded" about the motives. Mark Rowley, the acting deputy commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said that five people were dead - the stabbed police officer, three members of the public, and the attacker.

"The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers.

"The car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man armed with a knife continued the attack and tried to enter parliament." 

The man was shot and killed after he had stabbed the police officer. Four shots were said to have been heard by witnesses.

Rowley said police thought the attacker had acted alone but urged members of the public to remain vigilant.

A doctor at the nearby St Thomas hospital said many of those hurt on Westminster Bridge had "catastrophic" injuries. French officials told Le Telegramme newspaper that three French teenagers were among those injured.

Photographs supplied by the Reuters news agency showed several people lying in blood in the aftermath of the bridge attack. 

Witness Richard Tice said he "counted between eight and 10 figures on the ground" on Westminster Bridge after the attack.

He told Sky News: "My understanding from someone who was standing next to me was that a car had driven along the whole pavement knocking people over and that is why there were many injuries."

One woman was rescued from the Thames river after the attack, and had suffered serious injuries.

A pedestrian is treated as a police officer guards Westminster Bridge (Reuters)

After the ramming, the car apparently moved towards parliament before crashing into railings. It was from here that the attacker moved against police before being shot dead.

Kathy Casatelli, 58, told PA she saw a man being treated on the floor nearby.

She said: "I saw this car that was smashed into the gate. There was a man on the ground, it looked like he was moving. I don't know if he was the driver."

The House of Commons session was suspended and members of parliament who were in the chamber were told to remain there.

A Reuters reporter inside the building said medical staff were treating two people inside the gates of the parliamentary estate.

Chris Doyle, an MEE contributor and director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said: "Those in the dining room in Commons with us hid under tables. Believed the shouting was a gunman. Awful."

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, told Middle East Eye: "You're in the middle of it you don't realise what's going on, you don't realise there's completely innocent people being caught up in it."

"You see thess things happening in other parts of the world and it makes your blood run cold and its different thing entirely when you're amid it."

David Davis, the MP for Monmoth, said he heard shots as he walked along the pavement outside parliament.

"The shots started, I was with other MPs, we immediately dropped to the floor and then hid behind pillars."

Grant Schapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, said the police response was "instant".

"Heard commotion, looked round. Police weapons drawn, four shots, police ordered us to hit ground and get back, get back," he said on Twitter.

Reuters reporters inside parliament said a large number of armed police, some carrying shields, were pouring into the building.

Lord Brian Paddick said there was a "suspect package" outside Parliament which police have had to deal with before the building can be evacuated.

"There was a suspect package attached to a vehicle outside Parliament," the retired police officer told the BBC.

"Armed officers searched the whole of the Parliament estate to make sure there were no suspects outstanding."

A spokesman for the prime minister, Theresa May, said she was brought back to 10 Downing Street from Parliament.

A meeting of the government's emergency Cobra team is to be held tonight.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said his thoughts were with those affected and their families.

"I would like to express my thanks to the police and emergency services who work so hard to keep us safe and show tremendous bravery in exceptionally difficult circumstances," he said.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was shocked and saddened by the events in Westminster.

"We condemn this attack and while it is still too early to speculate on the motives, our thoughts and prayers are for the victims and those affected. We pay tribute to the police and emergency services who handled this with bravery.

"The Palace of Westminster is the centre of our democracy and we must all ensure that it continues to serve our country and its people with safety and security."

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