'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Police shoot two men after soldier is beheaded in busy Woolwich street. PM and London Mayor lead chorus of outrage as Cobra committee meets

Terrorism returned to the streets of Britain yesterday when a soldier was murdered by two suspected Islamists who attempted to behead and disembowel him as he left a barracks, in the first deadly attack since the 2005 London bombings.

One of the suspected killers, who addressed an onlooker who had a camera, said the pair had carried out the attack "because David Cameron, [the] British government sent troops in Arabic country".

As pedestrians stood close by the armed men, he went on: "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you," according to footage obtained by ITV News.

The Independent understands the dead soldier – who was wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt – was a member of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which is currently based overseas. He was ambushed by the men as he left the base in Woolwich, south-east London, who attacked him and then dragged his body into the middle of the road to pose for photographs while standing over him waving a cleaver and a gun, according to witnesses.

Senior Whitehall sources today confirmed to the BBC that the man who had been killed was a member of the armed forces.

Mr Cameron was cutting short a meeting with European leaders to chair a meeting of the emergency committee Cobra this morning as police and security services investigate whether the two men – later shot and wounded by police – were working alone or as part of a bigger group.

"It's the most appalling crime," he told reporters in Paris. "We are obviously urgently seeking the full facts but there are strong indications that it's a terrorist incident."

He said that they were looking at every aspect of security for troops across Britain, but he added: "The best way to defeat terrorism is to make sure you continue to live your life and make sure that terrorism never wins."

The London Mayor Boris Johnson added: "This afternoon's attack in Woolwich is a sickening, deluded and unforgivable act of violence."

Only hours after the attack was carried out, video footage of one of the suspected killers emerged. With his hands bloodied and carrying a cleaver, he is seen telling the bystander with a camera: "I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments – they don't care about you."

The man, who spoke English without a foreign accent, then saunters back across the road towards his victim lying in the street to join his apparent accomplice. The two men made no attempt to escape and charged a police car carrying an armed response team when it arrived at the scene about 15 minutes after the killing, according to a witness.

"The black guy ran at them with a meat cleaver before it stopped and he was right by the car when they shot him," said Julia Wilders, 51, who lives close by. The second man, who had a gun, was also shot, she said.

The men were taken to separate hospitals by air ambulance and they were expected to survive despite their injuries, according to police last night.

The men were believed to have waited outside the Woolwich barracks of the 2nd Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, which has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, where one of its members, Sergeant Johnson Beharry, won the VC.

Military sources said the soldier had left the barracks by car, but witnesses indicated that he was rammed while walking along the road in an apparently pre-arranged ambush, before being attacked while he was propped up against a wall of a block of flats.

One witness, identified only as James, said he and his partner saw two black men attack a young man aged about 20 with kitchen knives like he was "a piece of meat".

"They were hacking at this poor guy, literally," he told LBC Radio, adding that a group of brave women tried to shield the soldier from the two men.

"They were hacking at him, chopping him, cutting him. These two guys were crazed. They were just animals. They dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and left his body there."

Children returning from a school trip were kept locked inside nearby Mulgrave Primary School while the police operation played out.

One local woman said she thought she saw one of the suspects preaching in Woolwich town centre about a week ago. Her daughter, Rebecca France, 18, said yesterday: "It was really political and angry. She said she thought it was strange because he was different from the usual guys who preach in the name of Jesus – he wasn't doing that."

The Muslim Council of Britain said the use of "Islamic slogans" indicated they were motivated by their faith. A statement from the council said: "This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the armed forces. Muslims have long served in this country's armed forces, proudly and with honour.

"This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder."

Police had set up a series of cordons around the scene last night with extra police patrols in the area and helicopters crossing the skies overhead. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it sent 12 investigators to the scene to investigate the police shooting after reports of at least six shots being fired.

Shortly before 10pm last night the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, confirmed the murder investigation was being led by Counter Terrorism Command with two men arrested. He added: “It is hard to comprehend the shocking and horrific scenes we have seen this afternoon on a busy street as Londoners went about their day as normal.”

Last night there were clashes between EDL supporters and police in Woolwich after officers surrounded the local Islamic centre.

Islamists have threatened a number of times to behead a British soldier in retaliation for involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Six years ago a group of British Pakistanis based in Birmingham were convicted of plotting such an attack and their leader, Parviz Khan, received a life sentence.

Khan admitted planning to lure a soldier off the streets then film the beheading.

He was described in court as having the "most violent and extreme Islamist views" and his aim was to deter any Muslim from joining the British Army.

Video: Woolwich attack - man with bloodied hands and knife addresses camera

WARNING: Contains graphic images

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past