WASHINGTON — As more details in the London attack emerged, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left open the possibility that the assailant may have been a “troubled individual” as Metropolitan Police said the attacker’s vehicle appeared to target police walking on a bridge.
Tillerson issued a brief statement extending condolences after an attacker struck several individuals on the Westminster Bridge this afternoon, rammed into a fence at Westminster Palace and stabbed a police officer before being shot.
“We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference,” Tillerson said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the top of the daily briefing that President Trump had just spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May. “We obviously condemn today’s attack in Westminster, which the United Kingdom is treating as an act of terrorism. And we applaud the quick response that the British police and their first responders made to the situation,” Spicer said.
“The victims in this are in our thoughts and our prayers,” he added. “The city of London and her majesty’s government have the full support of the U.S. government in responding to the attack and bringing those to justice who are responsible.”
Mark Rowley, the national lead for Counter Terrorism Policing and the Acting Deputy Commissioner at the UK’s Metropolitan Police, gave reporters an update on the incident and confirmed the police officer stabbed outside Parliament, the suspect and two other people have been killed.
“The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public and three police officers who were on their way back from a commendation ceremony,” Rowley said. “The car then crashed near to Parliament and at least one man – armed with a knife – continued the attack, trying to enter Parliament.”
At least 20 people have been injured, he added. The wounded reportedly included some French children on a school trip.
“We have an ongoing operation – and whilst we currently believe there was only one attacker – I am sure the public will understand us taking every precaution in locking down and searching the area as thoroughly as possible.”
Rowley asked “people who saw the events unfold but haven’t yet spoken to police please get in touch with us.”
“A crime scene will remain in place in the affected areas in Westminster – it is vital that we carry out a painstaking investigation to recover all possible evidence,” he said. “Looking forward, throughout the rest of the day including when people are commuting home and over the days that follow, the people of London will see extra police officers – both armed and unarmed – out on our streets.”
“…We are reaching out and engaging with all communities across London to help reassure them. Our strength as a city is our ability to stand together at such terrible times. If anyone sees anything suspicious or that causes them concern please do contact us – don’t hesitate.”
Police have not released any information on the suspect as photos appeared to show the attacker being tended to by emergency personnel. At least two knives can be seen laying on the cobblestones as the assailant is on a gurney.
Some outlets identified the attacker as British hate preacher Abu Izzadeen, aka Trevor Brooks, but his attorney confirmed that he was still sitting in jail at the time of the attack. Abu Izzadeen was sentenced to two years in prison in January 2016 for Terrorism Act violations.
May was expected to sit down with her ministers in an emergency meeting.
“The British people will be united in working together to defeat those who would harm our shared values,” said Home Secretary Amber Rudd. “Values of democracy, tolerance and the rule of law. Values symbolised by the Houses of Parliament. Values that will never be destroyed.”
This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. EST