Major incident in South London with reports of shootings and a beheading

Reports suggest that a serving solider has been "hacked to bits" in Woolwich by two men with "meat cleavers" and guns

by The Commentator on 22 May 2013 14:59

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Various online reports have confirmed what is being reported as a "major incident" in Woolwich in South East London, as people drop feed information about what the Metropolitan Police has so far described as an "assault".

Eyewitnesses have reported a beheading with a 'machete' or 'meat cleaver' and claimed that police armed units responded to a scene in John Wilson Street, Woolwich. 

The shots are said to have been fired close to the Royal Artillery Barracks in London after an alleged sword attack, The Sun reports.

While the incident has yet to be confirmed, local residents and social media users report that two black men ran over a white man in a car, before "hopping out" and attempting to decapitate him. It is not yet known if the attempt was successful, though reports suggest that the two men were shot by armed police arriving at the scene.

The Boyadee Twitter account has what claims to be an eyewitness report of the incident, though its veracity is yet to be confirmed.

One man working in nearby Woolwich New Road told the News Shopper website: "All I heard was a couple of people had been shot. "It was about an hour or so ago. I heard they were trying to behead someone and were shot by police."

Police were called to the scene in South east London, at around 2.20pm today and the immediate area was shut down. 

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Officers have responded to an incident in John Wilson Street at 2.20pm today. 

Reports also suggest that the victim was a serving soldier. 

UPDATE 16:30: An eyewitness told LBC Radio that, "five feet away there was a blue Vauxhall if I'm not mistaken" that has "crashed into a signpost".

There were, he said, "two guys with what we know know is the victim, who was on the floor. We thought they were helping him."

He then said his partner let out an "almighty scream" and saw "big knives like that from a butchers". He stated there was "no samurai sword" but the attackers were "hacking at the poor guy [on the floor]" with a "meat cleaver".

One of the men is then reported to have pulled a gun from the car and told witnesses to get back in their cars. The eyewitness then told LBC Radio that the men were "chopping this guy to pieces, literally hacking at something like it was a piece of meat. These guys were animals. They then dragged the poor guy, he was obviously dead.... dragged him from the pavement an dumped his body in the middle of the road".

The men are then reported to have stood at the side of the road, waving a gun and knives about. Armed response units apparently took 20 minutes to arrive on the scene, and police "at the end of the road" did not respod to the event, according to the eyewitness, because they were not armed and able to deal with the incident. The eyewitness said there were "brave women" with the man on the floor who were trying to shield the body. "There were people filming it on their phones". One of the attackers then approached a bus and told people to take photos of him, after the incident. 

"There were six shots fired and both men went down... I'd say they were in their mid-20s".

Note: the eyewitness information was transcribed live from LBC Radio. We apologise in advance for any errors.

UPDATE: 17:10 - VIDEO (WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE)

The video below, uploaded to YouTube by Twitter user @WoolwichFinest appears to show the scene immediately after the incident.

UPDATE 17:30: The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn reports that the Metropolitan Police are now treating the incident as a "terrorist" attack. The Home Secretary Teresa May has convened an emergency meeting of COBRA, the UK's crisis response committee.

UPDATE 17:36: Sky News has reported that "Sky sources" state the Woolwich killing was "likely a politically-motivated Islamist terrorist attack".

UPDATE 17:44: The BBC has reported that one or both men were heard to shout "Allah hu Akbar" during the attack, and tried to film the incident aswell. 

UPDATE 18:04: Police spokesman confirms assailants have been taken to separate London hospitals where they are being treated for their wounds. As yet, no more information can be given about the deceased victim. 

UPDATE 18:14: ITV News reporter Simon Harris says large butcher's knife used in the attack.

UPDATE 18:17: Theresa May confirms she has been briefed by the Director General of British intelligence service MI5 on today's on the "sickening and barbaric" events.

UPDATE 18:22: David Cameron's staff confirms the Prime Minister is due to hold a press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, in response to today's events.

UPDATE 18:27: Metropolitan Police Twitter account tweets: “I ask people to remain calm&avoid unnecessary speculation. There will be an increased police presence in the area this evening.”

UPDATE 18:28: Theresa May releases a short statement, adding to earlier information (See 18:17), confirming that she has also been briefed by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner ahead of the COBRA meeting.

UPDATE 18:33: Former Defence Secretary John Reid tells BBC news "if it is a terrorist attack...it is very difficult to counter this form of attack...the 'lone wolf' type of attack, which may be inspired by the likes of al-Qaeda...but doesn't have the central planning"

UPDATE 18:36: UK Prime Minister will hold his news conference at approximately 20:00 UK time.

UPDATE 18:39: Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, Met chief Bernard Hogan Howe and London Mayor Boris Johnson have all arrived for the Cobra meeting, says the BBC's Robin Brant.

UPDATE 18:40: UK Prime Minister David Cameron to return to London, from Paris, later tonight.

UPDATE 18:46: UKIP leader Nigel Farage comments: "We are all left horrified by this appalling attack on the peaceful streets of London, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the young man who was killed and those who were injured."

"I hope and believe that this is an isolated incident and appeal for calm."

UPDATE 18:47: Reports indicate one of the assailants was filmed saying: "We swear by almighty Allah that we will never stop fighting you"

UPDATE 18:55: ITV news release exclusive image of one of the assailants (WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGE)

(Image credit: ITV news)

UPDATE 19:04: ITV news footage shows assailant saying: "I apologise women had to witness this here today, but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments - they don't care about you".

UPDATE 19:10: Prime Minister David Cameron joins Francoise Hollande in holding a press conference. Cameron due to speak shortly

UPDATE 19:14: Prime Minister David Cameron calls today's events "the most appalling crime" and adds there are "strong indications that it is a terrorist incident". "I will be returning to London later tonight so that I can chair a COBRA meeting again in the morning".

UPDATE 19:21: That concludes The Commentator's coverage of today's truly horrific events.

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