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‘Soldier beheaded’ in Woolwich, south London – live reaction

22 May 2013

Summary: A British solider has been reported to have been beheaded on the streets of Woolwich, south east London by two men at 2:20pm afternoon. The BBC is reporting the murder may have been filmed over cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’ . ITV has released footage of a man carrying a bloodied knife saying ‘remove your governments – they don’t care about you.’ 

Home Secretary Theresa May chaired a meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergency response committee, suggesting that the incident was a terrorist attack. Police shot two men, who had lingered at the scene. They are receiving emergency treatment at separate hospitals. 

2121: Theresa May has made a short statement following the Cobra meeting earlier:

‘What happened in today Woolwich was a sickening and barbaric attack. I have been briefed by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Director General of the Security Service’

‘The police and the Security Service are establishing the full facts of this barbaric case, but there is a strong indication it was an act of terrorism.’

2051: The BBC have released a photo of a second man holding a knife in Woolwich:


2027: Fraser Nelson offers his thoughts about why the government is concerned about what happens next:

Fraser_Nelson‘If this is a terrorist attack – and the government is certainly treating it like one – it is like no other. There are pictures of the suspected murderer lingering after the attack, and locals remonstrating with him.  A man with bloodied hands talks into a video camera saying ‘remove your governments’ as an elderly women nudges past him with a shopping bag. He is waiting for the police to arrive.

There is no suggestion of future or copycat attacks, but the Cobra Cabinet meeting will be as concerned with the reaction in the streets this evening than what happened at 2pm this afternoon.

2012: The Muslim Council of Britain has released a statement, condemning the attack:

‘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.’

2002: Ed Miliband has released a full statement on the attack:

‘This is a truly appalling murder which will shock the entire country. All of my thoughts are with the family and friends of the The British people will be horrified by what has happened in Woolwich. They will be united in believing that this terror on our streets cannot be allowed to stand.

‘The Labour Party will offer the Government our complete support in establishing the facts of what happened and ensuring that those responsible face the full force of British justice.’

1950: After an hour of discussion, the Cobra meeting chaired by Theresa May is over. The Defence Secretary, Mayor of London, Met Commissioner and intelligence agencies were all in attendance. The room was told there are ‘strong indications’ it was a terrorist incident:

1821: David Cameron is reported to be cutting short his trip to Paris. He was due to meet François Hollande after their last summit was cancelled due to the death of Baroness Thatcher. A press conference will be held as soon as he arrives at the Élysée Palace. Update: it’s expected about 8pm.

1813: Here was the scene near John Wilson Street in Woolwich this afternoon, where an air ambulance and four crews landed this afternoon:


1811: The Metropolitan Police have just released a statement:

‘At approx 1420 we were called to reports of an assault in John Wilson Street, Woolwich where one man was being assaulted by two other men. ‘A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm. ‘Officers including local Greenwich officers arrived at the scene and shortly after firearms officers arrived on the scene. ‘On their arrival at the scene they found a man, who was later pronounced dead. At this early stage I am unable to provide any further information about the man who has died. ‘Two men, who we believe from early reports to have been carrying weapons, were shot by police. They were taken to separate London hospitals, they are receiving treatment for their injuries. ‘I can understand that this incident will cause community concerns, and I would like to reiterate that we are investigating what has taken place today. ‘The MPS will investigate the circumstances that led to a man to lose his life and the IPCC, as is routine, will investigate the circumstances in which police discharged their weapons.’ 

1820: Sky reports that David Cameron is expected to cut sort his trip to Paris and return to London.

1808: More reports from Sky News of ‘Allahu Akbar’ chants: