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British police shot and killed a terror attacker Friday on the London Bridge — a harrowing incident that left several people injured and snarled mid-afternoon traffic on the key thoroughfare that had been the site of a deadly Islamist attack just over two years ago.
Five people were injured in the incident, although it was unclear what the injuries were and how many may have been caused by the terrorist. Scotland Yard earlier said first responders raced to “a stabbing at premises near to London Bridge” just before 2 p.m. local time.
Initial reports suggested the suspect was wearing a suicide vest, however, it was later believed to be a hoax device, Commissioner Neil Basu said during a news conference.
The area remained sealed by police for safety reasons.
“Due to reports that the suspect may have had an explosive device, specialist offices also attended the scene and wide cordons are in place to ensure there remains no further danger to the public,” Basu said. “However, I can confirm at this time, we believe a device that was strapped to the body of the suspect is a hoax explosive device. Officers continue to carry out meticulous searches in the area to ensure there is no outstanding threat to the public.”
The lockdown and fears of an explosive device caused a mass panic with those nearby running or searching for shelter.
“I was shopping in the area when they started to cordon it off. There was panic in the market and people started running. I saw two people fall over,” a woman identified as Jo, from East London, told the Guardian. “I was walking down a side street trying to leave the area when all of a sudden people started running. The police then told people to get inside, so we sheltered in Le Pain Quotidien. They locked the doors and moved people away from the glass. The police has just let us leave.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “being kept updated on the incident at London Bridge and want to thank the police and all emergency services for their immediate response.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn thanked police and emergency services for their response during the crisis.
“Shocking reports from London Bridge. My thoughts are with those caught up in the incident. Thank you to the police and emergency services who are responding,” he said.
British Transport Police said underground trains will not be stopping at London Bridge Underground station. The mainland station is also closed.
The London Bridge area was the scene of a terrorist melee on June 3, 2017. Islamic terrorists used a dual vehicle ramming and stabbing attack. Eight civilians died and four police officers were injured in the assault. All three terrorists were also killed.
The incident also comes as the national terrorist level was lowered from “severe” to “substantial” this month, according to the Guardian.
In 2017, following a New York City explosion that injured 29, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that terror attacks were “part and parcel of life in a big city.”
“It is a reality I’m afraid that London, New York, other major cities around the world have got to be prepared for these sorts of things,” he added.
Khan also released a statement on Friday regarding the London Bridge incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.