The British parliament was on lockdown today after an SUV struck several people on Westminster Bridge and rammed a fence at Westminster Palace.
A police officer was also stabbed within the fenced perimeter of Parliament before the assailant, described as a middle-aged man dressed in black, was shot by police.
Metropolitan Police said in a brief statement that officers were called at about 2:40 p.m. “to reports of an incident in Westminster Bridge… it is being treated as a firearms incident.”
“Officers – including firearms officers – remain on the scene and we are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” police added.
Met Police spokesman Commander B.J. Harrington subsequently told reporters police “remain open-minded to the motive” and said the counterterrorism command was leading the investigation. He said police staffing levels across the city were under review, and encouraged people who see something suspicious to call emergency numbers.
London Ambulance Service Deputy Director of Operations Pauline Cranmer did not confirm reports that at least one person was killed on the bridge and others suffered serious injuries, but said an air ambulance and hazardous material response team were on the scene.
“We have declared a major incident and our priority is to assess patients and ensure that they are treated and taken to hospital as soon as possible,” Cranmer said. “As we are very busy dealing with this incident, we would ask the public to only call us in a genuine emergency.”
A car on Westminster Bridge has just mowed down at least 5 people. pic.twitter.com/tdCR9I0NgJ
— Radosław Sikorski (@sikorskiradek) March 22, 2017
People were asked to avoid Parliament Square, Whitehall, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Victoria Street up to the junction with Broadway and the Victoria Embankment up to Embankment tube. Witnesses on the scene in the tourist-heavy area were also asked to share any photos or video with authorities.
The U.S. Embassy in London issued a short message to U.S. citizens: “We are aware of a reported incident near Westminster in London. Please avoid the area and monitor local news and/or follow @MetPoliceUK for updates. Thank-you.”
London Mayor Siddique Khan confirmed that police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack “until the police know otherwise,” and said “an urgent investigation is underway.”
Prime Minister Theresa May was quickly evacuated from the scene, according to the BBC. It was Prime Minister’s Questions day, meaning chambers were full. Parliament was put under suspension and into lockdown mode, said Commons Leader David Lidington.
President Trump, who has been briefed on the events, acknowledged to reporters at the beginning of a meeting that “something new just happened in London,” offering no other comment.
Today is the one-year anniversary of three coordinated suicide bombings that struck the Brussels airport and a Metro station.
This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. EST