Terrorists use van, blades to target civilians in London

A terror attack in London shortly after 10 pm local time last night left at least seven people dead. Forty-eight people were hospitalized, some with life-threatening wounds.

The assault began when a driver rammed a van into pedestrians on the London Bridge. The van, which was carrying three terrorists, was then driven to the nearby Borough Market. The male perpetrators jumped out and began stabbing people, including a British Transport Police officer. An off-duty Metropolitan Police officer was also wounded.

All three terrorists were shot and killed by during the attack.

“Armed officers responded very quickly and bravely, confronting three male suspects who were shot and killed in Borough Market,” Mark Rowley, Assistant in the Metropolitan Police Service, said in a statement. “The suspects had been confronted and shot by the police within eight minutes of the first call.”

Rowley added that “suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but these were later established to be hoaxes.”

The Metropolitan police reported this morning that “12 people in Barking, east London” have been arrested “in connection with last night’s incidents in London Bridge and the Borough Market area.” A “number of addresses in Barking” are also being searched. It is too early to tell if any of them will be charged in connection with the plot.

Counterterrorism officials were already investigating the possibility that a “wider conspiracy” was behind the May 22 Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people and wounded dozens more. That attack was carried out by Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old whose family is from Libya.

Investigators are currently looking into any potential ties between Abedi and Islamic State “external operations” planners in Libya. The group has an arm in Libya that has been connected to plots in Europe, including the Dec. 19, 2016 truck attack in Berlin, Germany. Salman’s father and younger brother, Hashim Abedi, were detained in Libya for questioning. According to Libyan officials, Hashim Abedi has allegedly admitted that he and Salman were members of the Islamic State. The so-called caliphate has claimed responsibility for the Manchester bombing.

No group has claimed responsibility for the assault on London Bridge and Borough Market. But it can take some time before claims are issued.

Vehicles repeatedly used as instruments of terror

The Islamic State has repeatedly called on followers to use vans, trucks or other vehicles in attacks. The organization’s propagandists have also encouraged would-be jihadists to combine vehicular assaults with stabbings using knives or other blades. Al Qaeda has similarly implored people to conduct operations using these same crude techniques.

The Islamic State claimed that its “soldiers” were responsible for a Nov. 28, 2016 attack at Ohio State University, as well as the Mar. 22 assault near the British parliament in London. The terrorists used vehicles and blades in both cases.

The self-declared caliphate also claimed responsibility for the July 14, 2016 operation in Nice, France and the aforementioned incident at a Berlin Christmas market last December. Jihadists used trucks as instruments of terror in each attack.

On Apr. 7, another truck was crashed into a crowd of people in Stockholm, Sweden. Authorities have said that the driver, an Uzbek, had ties to the Islamic State, but the group hasn’t claimed any role.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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