LONDON — A van driving at high speed mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge late Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants, witnesses said in an attack that police described as the latest in a string of deadly terrorist strikes to hit Britain this spring.
Witnesses described a rampage that left a trail of bloodied bodies on the bridge and in the adjacent Borough Market — both of which are London landmarks.
The low-tech but high-profile attack will raise questions about how British security services failed to stop yet another mass casualty strike after years of thwarting such attempts.
Police said in a 4 a.m. news conference on Sunday that six people had been killed, and that officers had shot dead the three attackers. London Ambulance Service tweeted a statement saying it had taken “at least 20 patients to six hospitals across London.”
The attacks set off scenes of panic in the heart of London on a cool June evening as the city’s streets were filled with people heading home from dinner or out for a drink.
In packed pubs — normally scenes of Saturday night revelry and merriment — patrons threw chairs, bottles and glasses at the attackers as the assailants used long knives to slash their way through crowds. Tourists gaped at the carnage from the roofs of double-decker buses.
London’s Metropolitan Police said the attacks were being treated as “terrorist incidents.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned from the campaign trail to 10 Downing Street for emergency meetings with security officials, had earlier described the “terrible incidents” as “a potential act of terrorism.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement condemning “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night.”
In a dawn news conference, Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the three attackers had been shot dead and that authorities did not believe anyone else was directly involved in carrying out the carnage.
Rowley said the men had not used explosives, despite a widely distributed photo that appeared to show one of the assailants lying prone with metal canisters strapped to his body. Rowley said the vest was “a hoax.”
Saturday marks the third major attack in Britain this spring. The evening’s carnage carried grim echoes of a similar incident in late March, when a driver swerved into pedestrians at Westminster Bridge, another Thames crossing, killing four. The driver then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.