London Man Hacked to Death in Suspected Terrorist Attack

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A man has been killed in a violent attack in the southeast London area of Woolwich. Police arrived at the scene and shot the two assailants, who according to eyewitness accounts had a firearm.

There have been unconfirmed suggestions, including from local MP Nick Raynsford and French President François Hollande, that the victim, who was wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt (a military charity for wounded British soldiers), was a soldier.

Prime Minister David Cameron has not confirmed that the incident, which took place close to a primary school and an army barracks, is a terrorist attack, but said during a press conference in Paris, where he is visiting Hollande, that “there is a strong indication that it is a terrorist attack.”

According to a statement from Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford, police were called to an incident on John Wilson Street at 2:20 p.m. this afternoon. Eyewitness accounts, including from some who took to Twitter to report the attack, suggest that two men drove into the victim and then got out of the car to hack him with a machete. The two men then allegedly dragged his body into the middle of John Wilson Street before asking bystanders to photograph and film them.

(PHOTOS: Terror in the U.K.)

Witness James Heneghan told radio station LBC 97.3 that he and his wife saw two men “hacking this poor guy, hacking him, chopping him.” He said they “were oblivious to anything, they were more worried about having their photo taken, running up and down the road.”

Footage (which may be distressing to some viewers) has emerged of one of the alleged attackers, carrying a meat cleaver and knife with bloodied hands, saying, “I apologize that women have had to witness this today, but in our land women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”

Speculation that this is terrorism has been spurred by rumors, which BBC political editor Nick Robinson says have been repeated by senior Whitehall sources, that the attackers were heard saying “Allahu akbar [God is great].”

Some Twitter users who witnessed the scene have suggested that the assailants were perhaps on drugs. One user, Boya Dee, tweeted the following, which users on Reddit have edited for an American audience here:







Once firearm police officers arrived on the scene, and following a brief shoot-out, the two men were taken down. They are being treated at separate hospitals; one is said to be in serious condition.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who called the attack “sickening and barbaric,” summoned a meeting of the government’s emergency-response committee, Cobra. The Prime Minister’s office confirmed in a statement following the meeting, which lasted just under an hour and was also attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson, that there are strong indications that this is a terrorist incident.

Cameron, who was meant to stay in France after his meeting with Hollande, is also returning to London tonight so that he can chair a second Cobra meeting on Thursday morning.

Click here to read Catherine Mayer’s in-depth TIME International cover story on British Prime Minister David Cameron, available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

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