On Wednesday, police responded to shots fired at the Westminster Bridge during a violent incident that put the United Kingdom's Parliament on lockdown. Reports are somewhat conflicting and very chaotic at the moment, owing to the unexpected and traumatic nature of the story ― in breaking news events like these, it can often be hard to get a concrete fix on what exactly happened. It's also worth noting that reports tend to be unreliable in the immediate aftermath of such shocking incidents, but here's what's being reported so far.
According to The Guardian, the incident centers around the stabbing of a policeman near the Palace of Westminster, and the person who allegedly did the stabbing has been shot by the London police. There's no word yet whether either the officer or the alleged assailant survived.
There have also been swirling reports on social media of an additional violent incident in the vicinity involving a car running down pedestrians, but that lacks the weight of any fully sourced reporting at this time. Again, what's been most exhaustively reported is the stabbing and subsequent shooting, although The Telegraph does report that "witnesses" also saw a car crash into a fence surrounding Westminster Bridge, hitting pedestrians in the process. According to that report, the driver of the vehicle then got out and attacked the officer.
The Guardian additionally reports that "as many as 12 people" may have been involved in the vehicular part of the incident, and are being treated at the scene. There are indeed some harrowing images on social media, with at least one showing a man splayed out on the ground Westminster Bridge, but for sensitivity's sake they won't be posted here.
The British parliament, which meets and operates in the Palace of Westminster, is reportedly still on lockdown following the incident. Prime Minister Theresa May was safely escorted out of the vicinity of the incident, according to a spokesperson.
Incident in #Westminster: We are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) March 22, 2017
The London Metropolitan Police Department says it's "treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise." The department also put out a statement asking people to avoid the following areas: Westminster Bridge, Whitehall, Parliament Square, Lambeth Bridge, Victoria Street "up to the junction with Broadway" and the Victoria Embankment "up to the Embankment tube."
According to NBC News, the U.S. State Department has put out a statement on the incident, saying it's "closely following the concerning situation outside the UK Parliament."
Trump reacts: “Hearing some big news having to do with London. It just happened.”— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 22, 2017
That's all he said for now. pic.twitter.com/caEJzWHEuE
Although there's been no official public statement from President Donald Trump just yet, he did make it clear to reporters that he'd heard the news, saying "hearing some big news having to do with London, it just happened." It seems a safe bet that he'll have more to say in the hours to come.
According to reporting from the Press Association, witness accounts suggest "at least five" people were struck by the vehicle, with one woman confirmed dead, and others suffering "catastrophic" injuries.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has released a statement responding to the incident, characterizing it as a "serious incident" which is being "treated as a terrorist attack until the police know otherwise."
You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan https://t.co/uSm2pwRTjO— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 22, 2017
Notably, Khan was derided by President Trump's eldest son Don Jr. on Twitter in the hours following the attack. It's a strange sight indeed ― open antagonism from a president's adult son, directed towards the mayor of the capital of one of America's foremost allies, in the midst of a terrorist attack. Don Jr. was also the target of criticism following the Quebec mosque shooting back in January, when he "liked" a tweet suggesting that his father would reap political advantage from the mass shooting.
Scotland Yard: 4 dead, including officer & suspect in UK Parliament attack— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) March 22, 2017
Scotland Yard: At least 20 people have been injured in UK Parliament attack— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) March 22, 2017
Scotland Yard has reportedly confirmed that four people were slain in the attack, including the assailant and the officer he stabbed. It's possible that number could creep higher, however ― death tolls are notoriously unreliable in the immediate aftermath of violent incidents like these, and with further confirmation that 20 more people were injured, it's possible the number of fatalities will increase.
According to NBC News, British authorities currently believe there was only one attacker involved. It's worth noting that the alleged attacker's identity has not yet been confirmed ― recent speculation on social media appears to have misidentified someone as a suspect, a sort of error that's common in moments like these.
More to come...