LONDON — U.K. police said Friday they are treating as terrorism an incident at London Bridge in which several people were stabbed, two of whom later died.
The Metropolitan Police said officers shot a suspect after reports of a stabbing in the British capital just before 2 p.m. local time on Friday. A suspected explosive device strapped to the man’s body was later found to be a hoax, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said.
The attack comes less than two weeks before the U.K.’s December election and in the same place as a previous attack, during the U.K.’s last election in 2017.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped campaigning Friday evening to travel back to Downing Street. He told reporters he would reconsider the decision to pause the campaign in the coming hours. The government’s Cobra emergency committee was due to meet at 9.30 p.m. local time, the prime minister’s spokesman said.
The prime minister praised the police for putting themselves in danger and the members of the public who “physically intervened to protect the lives of others.”
“I can assure you that anybody involved in this crime, in these attacks, will be hunted down and brought to justice,” he said. “We are all very saddened also to learn that some people have been injured in this event and our sympathies are with them and with their loved ones.”
The U.K. “will never be cowed, or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack,” Johnson said, adding that the “British values will prevail.”
“To the best of our knowledge, the incident has been contained,” he said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told reporters: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have got to inform you that as well as the suspect who was shot by the police, two of those injured in this attack in the London Bridge area have tragically lost their lives. My heart goes out to their loved ones and to the three injured victims that I understand are being treated in hospital.”
Earlier, Johnson tweeted he was following the incident and wanted to thank all emergency services for their response. Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted that she was “very concerned.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also thanked the emergency services. “Shocking reports from London Bridge. My thoughts are with those caught up in the incident,” he tweeted.
“My heart goes out to them, their families and all affected. Thank you to our brave emergency services who responded to today’s horrific attack,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told reporters. He praised the “breath-taking heroism” of members of the public who risked their own safety.
Both Labour and the Conservatives paused their campaigns in London, according to senior officials. The Liberal Democrats canceled a “Stop Brexit” rally that was planned for Saturday afternoon.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party suspended campaigning London “as a mark of respect for those who suffered in this attack.”
“We will not be cowed by those who threaten us. We must and we will stand together to reject hatred and division,” he said.
The 2017 attack at London Bridge, which left eight people dead and 48 injured, prompted a brief suspension in election campaigning. That incident, which was initially expected to help former Prime Minister Theresa May’s campaign, prompted criticism from Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn that May had shortchanged police and attempted to “protect the public on the cheap.”
Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was quick to deploy a similar line Friday.
Speaking in a BBC election debate between the U.K.’s seven main parties which took place just hours after the attack, she said: “This was an extreme event, but we can’t ignore that over recent years — certainly the last five years — we’ve seen increases in violent crime right across the country. At the same time, since 2010 we’ve seen over 20,000 police officers cut from frontline services. So it’s right to recognize that that would have a direct impact.”