The British government’s emergency committee met Thursday after two attackers butchered a British soldier in a daylight attack in London that raised fears terrorism had returned to the capital.
Prime Minister David Cameron says there are strong indications it was an act of terrorism, and his top advisers will be examining the potential security implications of the attack, which took place near a military barracks in the Woolwich area of the city.
Police Thursday confirmed the dead man was a serving soldier and said his identity will not be released yet at his family’s request. They said a post-mortem examination will be conducted later Thursday.
One of the attackers went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver. Police shot and wounded the unidentified assailants and took them into custody.
British media say the victim was wearing a shirt in support of troops when he was killed.
Security has been tightened at military barracks and authorities say they are updating their guidance for military personnel.
Police in the county of Lincolnshire in eastern England said a property was being searched in connection to the attack in Woolwich. Police said a search warrant had been obtained but would not provide details about the search. Police were also scouring the attack site for further clues.
London Mayor Boris Johnson urged the people of the city to remain calm. Leaving the meeting of the emergency committee, Johnson appeared to indicate the attack was being seen as a one-off incident.
“Everything I am hearing leads me to think that Londoners can go about their business in the normal way and we are going to bring the killers to justice,” he said.
Calling it “an appalling murder,” Cameron earlier said there were “strong indications” it was an act of terrorism, and two other officials said there were signs the attack was motivated by radical Islam.
The incident unfolded Wednesday afternoon when officers responded to reports of an assault just a few blocks from the Royal Artillery Barracks in the neighborhood of Woolwich.
Images from the scene showed a blue car that appeared to have been used in the attack, its hood crushed and rammed into a signpost on a sidewalk that was smeared with blood. A number of weapons — including butchers’ knives, a machete and a meat cleaver — were strewn on the street.
While there were moments of chaos — one local primary school went into lockdown when a teacher saw the victim’s body — the scene was striking in its normalcy. Pedestrians milled about with grocery bags and shopping carts as a body lay motionless in the street — and the attackers remained on the scene, wielding long knives.
Passers-by filmed what appeared to be one of the attackers, his hands covered in blood, making political statements about “an eye for an eye” as a body lay behind him.
Footage — obtained by ITV news and The Sun newspaper — showed a man in a dark jacket and knit cap walking toward a camera, clutching a meat cleaver and a knife. Speaking in English with a British accent, he apologized that women passers-by “have had to witness this” barbarity, saying that “in our land our women have to see the same.”