A Norwegian national of Somali origin, was arrested after executing a knife attack against civilians in the streets of London last night. The 19-year-old man killed one and injured five before he was halted by police who shot him with a taser. The incident occurred around 10:30pm local time outside The Imperial Hotel in South Hampton row.
At this point investigators believe the man, who is said to have emigrated to Britain from Norway with his family when he was 5 years old, suffers from mental illness but note that it is too soon to rule out terrorism.
During a Press Conference Wednesday evening, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley stated that, “Whilst the investigation is not yet complete – all of the work that we have done so far, increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental health issues.”
Witnesses at the scene reported that the man went on a rampage through Russell Square, silently stabbing unsuspecting pedestrians in the back leaving them “screaming and covered in blood”.
The one fatality was a 60-year-old American woman who used her last breaths to scream “he’s still here!” to alert other pedestrians that the threat was still eminent. While being consoled and embraced by a family of Spanish tourists, her consciousness slipped and though medics tried to save her she ultimately died at the scene.
Among the five injured are citizens from Britain, Israel, and Australia who all have non-life-threatening injuries. As of 8:30am local time Thursday police said 2 of the victims remain in the hospital while three have already been discharged.
The suspect was initially taken to the hospital as well where he was held by armed guards before being transported to a police station and placed under arrest on suspicion of murder.
Though authorities believe this is likely a random act of a mentally ill man, a witness noted that she saw two men of Middle Eastern descent acting suspiciously at the scene. The 35-year-old woman stated that “one man made off on a motorbike down the wrong side of the road with the other man heading in a different direction.”
During a press conference Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britains top police chief, expressed pride in the officers response.
“Every day in London,” Hogan-Howe said,” my officers patrol and carry out operations to catch criminals in the knowledge that they face risk and danger. I am proud that last night our specialist firearms officers were on the scene in six minutes and, using only a Taser, detained the subject. That demonstrates our commitment to use force in a professional and proportionate way.”
Officers remain vigilant in their investigation, working with the Norwegian Government and British Government officials, to possibly find a motive and continue to protect the public from further threats.