LONDON — Two men with butcher knives hacked a third man to death yesterday near a London military barracks, and one then went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver. Soon after, arriving police shot and wounded the unidentified assailants and took them into custody.
The brutal daylight attack galvanized this city and raised fears that terrorism had returned to London.
Authorities did not identify the victim by name, but French President Francois Hollande referred to him as a “soldier” at a news conference in Paris with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron would not confirm that, but British media reported that the victim was wearing a shirt in support of troops and Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether a U.K. soldier was involved.
Calling it “an appalling murder,” Cameron 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 Cabinet’s emergency committee was immediately convened and security was stepped up at army barracks across London. Cameron cut short his Paris trip to return to London and his office said he would chair another session today.
The incident unfolded yesterday 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.