Fatal attack on British MP termed terrorist incident

Published October 17, 2021
CHIEF Constable of Essex Police B.J. Harrington, Britain’s Labour Party chief Keir Starmer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle carry flowers as they arrive on Saturday at the scene where MP David Amess was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea.—Reuters
CHIEF Constable of Essex Police B.J. Harrington, Britain’s Labour Party chief Keir Starmer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle carry flowers as they arrive on Saturday at the scene where MP David Amess was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea.—Reuters

LONDON: The fatal stabbing of British lawmaker David Amess was a terrorist incident, police said on Satur­day, as MPs pressed for tougher security in the wake of the second killing of a UK politician while meeting constituents in just over five years.

Veteran Conservative MP David Amess, 69, was talking to voters at a church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea east of London when he was stabbed to death on Friday.

Police said they arrested a 25-year-old suspect and were investigating “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.

Police have said the investigation is in the “very early stages”, though multiple UK media outlets, citing sources, reported that the suspect was believed to be a British national with Somali heritage.

The Sun tabloid reported that the attacker stabbed Amess multiple times in the presence of two women staff, before sitting down and waiting for police to arrive.

Police said they believed the attacker acted alone and carried out searches at two addresses in the London area.

Prime Minister Boris John­son visited the scene to pay his respects on Saturday, laying floral wreaths outside the church with the leader of the opposition, Labour lea­der Keir Starmer in a rare show of unity, along with the Speaker of the House of Com­mons Lindsay Hoyle and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Members of the public also came to lay bouquets next to the police tape surrounding the crime scene.

One bouquet enclosed a handwritten note saying: “RIP Sir David. You did not deserve this.”

Britain’s politicians were stunned by the highly public attack, which recalled the murder of a pro-EU lawmaker ahead of the Brexit referendum.

In June 2016, Labour MP Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist, prompting demands for action against what lawmakers said was “a rising tide” of public abuse and threats against elected representatives.

Home Secretary Patel on Friday ordered police across the country to review security arrangements for all 650 MPs.

At the same time the interior minister insisted the attack would not stop MPs from holding face-to-face meetings with residents in the areas they represent.

“We will carry on... We live in an open society, a democracy. We cannot be cowed by any individual,” she told Sky News after the wreath-laying.

House of Commons Spea­ker Hoyle promised no “kneejerk reactions” but told Sky News: “We will take further measures if we need to.”

Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP who tried to save a stabbed police officer during a 2017 terror attack near the Houses of Parliament, on Twitter urged “a temporary pause in face-to-face meetings” until the security review is complete.

MPs and their staff have been attacked before, although it is rare. But their safety was thrown into sharp focus by Brexit, which stoked deep political divisions and has led to often angry, partisan rhetoric.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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