LONDON: A knife attacker slashed a man at an east London metro station, reportedly screaming “this is for Syria”, in what police described as a terrorist incident, prompting a senior minister to urge Britons on Sunday not to be intimidated by the attack.
A pool of blood near the ticket barriers at the Leytonstone Underground station could be seen in footage posted on Twitter that also showed the suspect confronting police on Saturday evening.
Police said the man, aged 29, had also threatened other bystanders. A 56-year-old man suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries and was in a stable condition at a hospital. A second victim suffered minor injuries.
“As a result of information received at the time from people who were at the scene and subsequent investigations carried out by the CTC, I am treating this as a terrorist incident,” Richard Walton, who leads the Counter-Terrorism Command at London’s Metropolitan Police, said in a statement. “I would continue to urge the public to remain calm, but alert and vigilant.”
The second man sustained a minor injury but did not require medical assistance, while a woman was threatened by the suspect but was not injured, police said.
The attacker was arrested after police used a Taser to subdue him.
Detectives were searching a home in east London, police said on Sunday.
A witness quoted by British newspapers said the attacker appeared to claim that he was retaliating for Western air strikes on militants in Syria.
Amateur video footage of the incident showed one passer-by shouting, “You’re no Muslim”, at the suspect as he was pinned down by officers.
Shouts are heard as the suspect is seen remonstrating with people before swinging at one of them.
Officers shout “Drop the knife!” and fire Taser electric stun guns.
“Who is this idiot?” one onlooker says after the man is tasered.
Officers shout “Put the knife down!” and “Drop it now!” at the stunned man, who does drop the short-bladed knife as he quivers on the ground.
The man is handcuffed behind his back while another officer pins him down with his knee and passers-by are told to get back.
Salim Patel, 59, who runs the station shop, said: “I saw the guy attacking the victim, punching him so hard. The victim was screaming ‘please, somebody help me; help’. The attacker started kicking him on the floor. I think the victim was unconscious, he passed out. Then the attacker took a knife out and started stabbing him as he lay on the floor.”
A witness told the BBC that when the suspect was taken to a police van, “I saw pedestrians shouting at him... one pedestrian tried to throw a bottle.”
Police said they were initially alerted at 7.06pm on Saturday to the “violent unprovoked knife attack”. Officers attempted to engage with the man but were threatened with violence, they said. He was arrested at 7.14pm.
British war planes joined the air strikes on Thursday after Prime Minister David Cameron won parliamentary approval to bomb the militant Islamic State group in Syria. In an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper, Syrian President Bashar al Assad said the British strategy would make the situation worse.
Britain is on its second-highest security alert level of “severe”, meaning a militant attack is considered highly likely -- though not imminent -- mainly because of the threat posed by IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said whatever the circumstances Britons must not let the incident affect their behaviour.
“We cannot let these sort of people, terrorists et cetera, actually dominate our space,” he told the BBC.
“The way we defeat them at the end of the day is with our values, our freedom of expression, our freedom of belief... our ability to take our children, our families out at Christmas. None of that must be curtailed.”
Nevertheless, the attack will draw parallels with the May 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death south of the Thames River by two converts.
Prime Minister Cameron has said air strikes would not increase the chances of an attack on Britain, since militants already viewed the country as a top target with seven plots foiled over the past year.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office said: “We are monitoring the situation closely as further details emerge.”
The station was open on Sunday, with a police officer standing guard outside.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2015