LONDON: Declaring “enough is enough,” Prime Minister Theresa May vowed on Sunday a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy after three knife-wielding assailants unleashed an assault late Saturday night, the third major terrorist attack in the country in three months.
At least seven people were killed and dozens more wounded, including 21 who remained in critical condition, as the men sped across London Bridge in a white van, ramming numerous pedestrians, before emerging with large hunting knives for a rampage in the capital’s Borough Market, a crowded night spot.
In a matter of minutes, the three assailants were chased down by eight armed officers who fired about 50 rounds, killing the men, who wore what appeared to be suicide vests but subsequently proved to be fake. One member of the public also sustained nonfatal gunshot wounds, the police said.
On Sunday morning, Mrs. May’s Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party announced they were suspending campaigning for parliamentary elections — less than a full day in the case of Labour — out of respect for the victims. However, the right-wing, populist, U.K. Independence Party said it would continue with its scheduled campaign events.
But Mrs. May said the election would go ahead on Thursday as planned.
The prime minister led an emergency meeting of her security cabinet on Sunday morning. In a statement afterward, she said the government would intensify its counterterrorism efforts to deal with Islamist radicalism at home and to try to restrict “the safe spaces it needs to breed,” both on the internet and in British communities.
“Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would,” she said. “Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.”
Mrs. May said the government may extend the time of custodial sentences for terrorism suspects, but more needed to be done in binding communities together to combat what she called “a perversion of Islam,” adding, “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”
Mrs. May, who was home secretary for six years before becoming prime minister, has been pressing for a tougher line against Islamist extremism for some time. By stating that police and security measures were insufficient, she was announcing a new effort, if re-elected, to break down what she considers to be essentially self-segregated communities and to be less delicate of their sensitivities.