A terror suspect deliberately drove at police outside Buckingham Palace then attacked three unarmed officers with a 4ft sword, it was revealed yesterday.
Before launching his assault just after 8.30pm on Friday, the 26-year-old man repeatedly screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’.
Watched by horrified tourists, the brave officers managed to wrestle him to the ground in front of the Palace gates.
He was finally restrained after being sprayed with CS gas. Two of the PCs suffered cuts to their hands during the struggle.
(1) The suspect’s blue Toyota Prius (highlighted top right with boot open) swerves around the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace at about 8.33pm on Friday. (2) Deliberately heading for a parked police van, like the one right, the car smashes through cones and skids to a halt as three unarmed PCs scramble out raising the alarm and sending the Palace into lockdown. (3) As they approach, the driver reaches into the front passenger footwell of his car for a 4ft sword, which he brandishes as he repeatedly shouts: ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Using CS gas, they successfully wrestle him to the ground – but two officers are cut
They were later taken to hospital by ambulance but their injuries were described as minor.
Neither the Queen, who is on holiday at Balmoral Castle, nor any other members of the Royal Family were in residence at the time.
It is believed the attacker, from Luton, who is thought to be of Bangladeshi origin, was a ‘lone wolf’, although police will examine possible links to terror groups.
Scotland Yard said he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and is being held at a Central London police station.
Security sources said he did not feature in any ‘active’ investigations, while other sources said he had previously suffered mental health problems.
The incident began when the knifeman, who wore a light-coloured T-shirt and jeans, drove around the Victoria Memorial in front of the Palace.
Swerving his blue Toyota Prius into traffic cones separating his lane from a ‘restricted area’, he seemed destined for a collision with a marked police van. But at the last moment he skidded to a halt in front of it.
Lockdown: Police cordon off Buckingham Palace in the wake of the attack
As three unarmed PCs jumped out and approached the Toyota, the suspect reached for a sword in the footwell.
Emma Bell, 28, a broker from Fulham, West London, saw three or four police offices dragging him from the scene and pinning him to ground at the side of the road.
‘There was blood on his shirt and blood on his face,’ she told The Mail on Sunday. ‘He looked normal; average height, average build, clean shaven. He wasn’t moving when he was on the ground; it looked as if he was unconscious.’
Another witness, Kiana Williamson, said: ‘We turned up and there was one police van and one car, there was also a civilian’s car that had veered towards the police.
‘More police were arriving on to the scene and the man was fighting back.’ Another witness said: ‘My partner saw a sword…as well as a policeman with blood on him, looking like his hand or chest was injured. The police officer had the sword in his hand, walking away with it.’ She said that tourists ran away from the scene.
‘The police didn’t just run up to the car. There was some shouting prior to this, I couldn’t tell you what. I was a bit panicked, then I went to the small crowd as this seemed the safest place to be, on the memorial.’
A taxi driver at the scene added: ‘I asked an officer if he got away, and he said that there was only one attacker and two coppers got whacked on their hands.’
The attack happened just hours after a 30-year-old Somalian man was shot dead in Brussels following a machete attack on a group of soldiers. Because of its symbolic value, a Buckingham Palace atrocity would represent a major coup for Islamic State and extremists inspired by their barbarity.
Metropolitan Police revealed how the man had deliberately driven at a police van parked near the Mall roundabout in front of the palace, before stopping in front of the vehicle
Earlier on Friday, police urged people to be extra vigilant over the Bank Holiday weekend amid an increased risk of terrorism.
Last week The Mail on Sunday disclosed that Special Forces solders driving specially adapted civilian vehicles will patrol Britain’s streets to thwart an IS atrocity over the long weekend. Security sources said elite troops will mingle with revellers and tourists at sites considered most at risk.
Friday’s terror attack was the fourth in London alone since March, when 52-year-old Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four, before ramming into the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster and fatally stabbing an unarmed policeman.
On June 3, eight people were killed and many others were injured in an attack on London Bridge and Borough Market.
A few weeks later, a van was driven into worshippers near a mosque in Finsbury Park. Yesterday, Commander Dean Haydon, the head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: ‘I would like to pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of these officers who quickly brought this incident under control.
‘Their vigilance, courage and the swiftness of their response demonstrates how our officers are protecting the public at this time.’
He said police were carrying out ‘searches in the Luton area’ adding: ‘While we cannot speculate on what the man was intending to do – this will be determined during the course of the investigation – it is only right that we investigate this as a terrorist incident at this time.’
Eyewitnesses revealed how the hero officers wrestled the man to the ground and received hand injuries. Both have been discharged from hospital
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hailed the police response as ‘heroic and professional’ and thanked officers for ‘ensuring that not a single member of the public was injured’.
He added: ‘Terrorists who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life will never succeed. London stands more united than ever.’
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation that represents rank-and-file officers, said: ‘As always my thoughts go out to my colleagues who, without fear or favour, put themselves in harm’s way to keep the public safe.’
But he added: ‘I’d have liked to have seen them have Taser, then they could have dealt with it differently, but we are not an armed services. I’m wholly opposed to that.’
Kevin Hurley, a former Detective Chief Superintendent in the Met and ex-Police and Crime Commissioner, said: ‘They need sidearms to protect us the public in our streets and shopping centres. When are we going to get real in this country? He could have chopped their heads off.’
The Buckingham Palace attacker is the latest in a long line of terror suspects to come from Luton.
Banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun (ALM) was long active in the Bedfordshire town, a quarter of whose 217,000 residents are Muslim, and many of the group’s members have been jailed while other local jihadis have been killed or have travelled to Syria.
Westminster Bridge murderer Khalid Masood was put under surveillance by MI5 while he lived in Luton because of his interest in ALM and its notorious hate preacher leader Anjem Choudary.
Scotland Yard said he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and is being held at a Central London police station
Earlier this year, five men were jailed for drumming up support for Islamic State after an undercover policeman infiltrated their meetings in Luton, with one of the extremists recorded talking about ‘40 trucks driving down Oxford Street full of explosives’.
One of them was the brother of Luton delivery driver Junead Khan, who was last year jailed for plotting to kill US soldiers outside an air base.
A family of 12 from Luton all travelled to Syria in 2015 to join Islamic State.
Four jihadis from Luton were locked up in 2013 over a plan to bomb a Territorial Army HQ by driving a remote control car packed with explosives under its gate.
Councillor Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Borough Council, said yesterday: ‘We are shocked by last night’s events and will do everything in our power to help the police investigation.
‘We are talking with Luton’s community leaders… Luton will stand united in harmony and in opposition to terrorism at this time.’
Additional reporting: Padraic Flanagan, Simon Murphy and Ned Donovan
Anti-ram barriers to protect Notting Hill revellers
Large barriers have been set up along the route of this weekend’s Notting Hill carnival to prevent terrorists trying to ram revellers with cars or lorries.
Unprecedented security measures are in place after a spate of attacks using vehicles as weapons in Barcelona, Stockholm, Nice, Berlin and London.
Yesterday bright yellow steel barriers and concrete blocks could be seen on the roads surrounding the route in West London. Two million visitors are expected at the two-day event, which starts today.
Ring of steel: One of the barriers along the route yesterday
There will be ‘major road closures’ in the area and postboxes have been sealed up and shopfronts protected with wooden boards. Scotland Yard said there was no specific intelligence that the carnival would be targeted by terrorists but security plans had been ‘thoroughly reviewed’ following the van attack in Barcelona earlier this month.
Officers will also form a ‘ring of care’ around the burned-out Grenfell Tower, close to the carnival route, amid fears there could be protests there. Local MP Emma Dent Coad said it was right the carnival went ahead despite passing the tower block where at least 80 people were killed in a fire in June. She told Radio 4’s Today show: ‘I see it perhaps as a wake. It’s a time in the middle of the grieving to relax and honour the dead and party briefly.’
Security was also boosted last night by the deployment of eight Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) soldiers. The armed, plain-clothed troops will mingle with revellers, keeping their weapons concealed, and respond quickly to any terrorist incidents.
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