A woman has been killed and several more people injured in a knife attack in central London’s Russell Square. Police said that mental health issues or terrorism were being explored as possible reasons for the incident.
Police were called to Russell Square at 10.33 p.m. local time (21.33 UTC) after reports of a man seen in possession of a knife injuring people.
The female victim was treated at the scene but was pronounced dead a short time later.
Police said mental health problems were a likely issue while not ruling out terrorism.
“Early indications suggest that mental health is a significant factor in this case, but we retain an open mind regarding the motive and terrorism remains one line of inquiry,” police said in a statement.
The condition of the other victims is not yet known. One of them is believed to be an American citizen.
Extra police have been deployed in the area.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged people to remain calm and vigilant.
“I urge all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant. Please report anything to the police. We all have a vital role to play as eyes and ears for our police and security services and in helping ensure London is protected,” he said in a statement.
The attack came on the same day that police announced that more armed officers were to be deployed on public patrol as part of anti-terrorism plans.
On July 7, 2005, as part of a coordinated Islamist attack, a bomb was detonated on a train travelling between the King’s Cross St. Pancras and Russell Square underground stations, resulting in the deaths of 26 people.
More armed police
London is deploying an extra 600 armed police to join the existing 2,200 firearms officers in the face of ‘all manner of threats.’ But most of the UK capital’s 31,000 police officers are not armed.
Launching the initiative with London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan, Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said, “You need firearms officers who will use force to stop those attackers.”
After terrorist attacks in France and in southern Germany in the last month, the UK is also on high alert. The country has not had a major terror attack since 2005, but reports suggest it remains a target.
“Anyone who’s been following events in Europe over the past few weeks will understand why we want to show our determination to protect the public,” Hogan-Howe said.
“In some of our big iconic locations, we’ve already got armed patrols – if you look at Parliament, Downing Street – so it’s not entirely new,” he said. “I think people understand that where you are going to have people as enemies who’ve got guns, we’ve got to have guns.”
Khan told reporters that while Britain’s “severe” threat level remained unchanged, “in light of recent deadly attacks in Europe it is important we are prepared should the unthinkable happen,” he said ahead of the initial police deployment on Thursday.
“We will see more armed officers on our streets, but there is no reason to be alarmed,” Khan said. “All of our police officers are playing their part and working closely with all of our communities to prevent the possibility of an attack.”
rc/cw/jm (Reuters, AFP)