Westminster Bridge "Incident" In London Shuts Down Parliament & Details Are Still Emerging — REPORT
An incident outside the Parliament building in London ended in gunfire Wednesday afternoon, according to British outlet Sky News. Witnesses told Sky that "someone rushed through, attacked a policeman," and "appeared to be carrying a knife." Sky also reported that a driver crashed into the fence around the building, injuring several people. Update: U.K. police officially declared the incident as a terrorist attack and said a full counter-terrorism effort was underway.
According to BBC News, the deputy speaker of Parliament suspended the regular activities of the legislature for the day, and the Palace of Westminster (where Parliament is located) is on lockdown. Members of Parliament (MPs) have been warned to stay in their offices, and the U.K.'s top investigative agency Scotland Yard has been called in to assist in the aftermath. A spokesperson for the agency told BBC News that the incident is being treated "as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise."
The incident reportedly ended in one police officer stabbed and the alleged suspect shot, and both laying on Westminster Bridge. Some reports indicate that more people could have been injured, but there is no official total of injuries or deaths yet. Thousands of tourists and Londoners cross the bridge daily, which connects two of the city's most famous landmarks, Big Ben and the London Eye. Aerial footage of the scene shows busses and cars trapped on the bridge, which was shut down shortly after the incident.
"Someone rushed through, attacked a policeman... he appeared to be carrying a knife. We heard lots of gunfire" witness tells Sky News pic.twitter.com/3tMbYIoByH— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 22, 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May was actually at the House of Commons when the incident occurred, and was reportedly seen being evacuated from the building. According to The Daily Mirror, the Portcullis House across the street from Westminster Palace, where many MPs have their offices, is also being evacuated.
The motive behind the incident is still unknown, but it could have swift political repercussions. The U.K. is in the midst of withdrawing from the European Union, a move largely motivated by national security concerns about immigrants and terrorism. Should the investigation prove terrorist intent in the incident, public pressure could force the British government to accelerate the Brexit timeline. At the time of the incident, the Scottish Parliament was actually debating about Scotland's bid for independence from the U.K., which may also be impacted by the events outside Westminster on Wednesday.
More details are still emerging about what exactly happened, and it could be months before a full picture of why the incident occurred becomes clear. Parliament or Prime Minister May should release new statements in the next few hours, so stay tuned for more details.