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LONDON — A British soldier has been killed in broad daylight by unidentified assailants who tried to behead him in a street near an army barracks in London. Soon after the attack, two men carrying weapons were shot and wounded by police. A bloodstained suspect at the scene holding a meat cleaver was captured on video telling passers-by: “We swear by the almighty Allah.”
He said: They were hacking at this poor guy, literally. They were chopping him, cutting him. These two guys were crazed. They were just animals.”
“They dragged the poor guy – he was obviously dead, there was no way a human could take what they did to him.
“They dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and left his body there.”
Brandishing a large bloodied knife, a man suspected of killing a soldier in Woolwich attempts to justify his actions to a bystander.
The British government’s emergency committee is set to meet Thursday after two men wielding a machete and a cleaver hacked a man believed to be a soldier to death on a busy London street Wednesday while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” in an attack that was caught on video and left the nation shocked and horrified.
Prime Minister David Cameron says there are strong indications it was an act of terrorism, and his top advisers will be examining the potential security implications of the attack, which took place near a London military barracks.
The victim, who some reports said may have been a soldier, was killed at the scene, and the attackers waited at the scene until police arrived and shot both. One attacker, his hands soaked in blood and still holding a machete, delivered an angry jihadist screed as stunned passersby watched, the dead man lying on the street, in the southeast London neighborhood of Woolwich.
Woolwich incident in John Wilson Street SE18, London
Local lawmaker Nick Raynsford said the dead man was a British soldier serving at a nearby barracks, but the Ministry of Defence could not immediately confirm this.
The man holding the cleaver was videotaped by a bystander saying: “By Allah we swear by the almighty Allah and we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone.”
In the video, obtained exclusively by NBC’s UK news partner, ITV News, the man also said: “Leave our lands and we can all live in peace, that’s all I have to say.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, on a trip to Paris which he cut short to return to London and chair an emergency national security meeting, said: “It is the most appalling crime. Tonight our thoughts should be with the victim and their families and friends.
Some images show three men lying scattered in the street, surrounded by discarded weapons and splashes of blood. Eyewitnesses huddled behind a police cordon as around 30 to 40 officers secured the scene, just around the corner from Mulgrave Primary School.
‘They were just animals’
A witness, who identified himself only as James, told London’s LBC 97.3 radio station that he saw two men standing by the victim, who was on the ground in the British capital’s Woolwich neighborhood. At first James thought they were trying to help the man. But then he saw two meat cleavers, like a butcher would have.
The first call about an assault came in at 2:20 p.m. (9:20 a.m. ET). At some point afterward, police responded, including armed members of a firearms unit, even though British police typically don’t carry guns. Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchworth noted that “early reports” indicated the attackers had “weapons.” Metropolitan Police say they’re aware of reports it took 30 minutes for police to arrive.
The suspects rushed at the arriving officers before being shot, James told the radio station. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said the Metropolitan Police informed them at 2:50 p.m. of “an incident,” as would happen when police shoot and injure someone.
Scotland Yard said officers responded to reports of an assault on Wednesday afternoon in the London neighbourhood of Woolwich. London Ambulance service said one man was found dead at the scene and two other men were taken to the hospital, one in a serious condition. Police would not give further details, saying only it was a “serious incident” that was ongoing.