Two people have been stabbed in a terrorist attack in south London which police believe to be “Islamist-related”.
Scotland Yard said armed officers shot dead a man as part of a “proactive Counter Terrorism operation” on Streatham High Road that unfolded at 2pm on Sunday.
Three victims were taken to a south London hospital, with one man’s condition said to be life-threatening and one woman being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Police said a second woman received minor injuries believed to have been caused by glass following the discharge of a police firearm.
A device found strapped to the body of the suspect was a hoax, the Metropolitan Police added in a statement.
It said: “The situation has been contained and officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are now leading an investigation into the incident.
“The incident was quickly declared as a terrorist incident and we believe it to be Islamist-related.”
One witness described seeing the man apparently carrying a weapon with “silver canisters on his chest” being shot in front of a Boots store.
Another said members of the public came to the aid of victims, with one saying she had been stabbed.
People took shelter in nearby shops as the incident unfolded on the busy south London high street.
A 19-year-old student from Streatham, who did not want to be named, told the PA news agency: “I was crossing the road when I saw a man with a machete and silver canisters on his chest being chased by what I assume was an undercover police officer, as they were in civilian clothing.
“The man was then shot. I think I heard three gunshots but I can’t quite remember.
“After that, I ran into the library to get to safety.
“From the library, I saw a load of ambulances and armed police officers arrive on the scene.”
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party and councillor for the St Leonard’s ward on Lambeth Council, told PA: “There’s absolute shock and disbelief from residents that are around. There was an immediate sense of panic and fear when it happened.”
He added: “The emergency services seemed to have reacted incredibly quickly, I mean so quickly that you wonder whether they had some advance warning about this because they were here in such great numbers so quickly.”
Nardos Mulugeta, 52, a mechanical engineer who lives in Streatham, said he heard gunshots before seeing one victim lying in the street.
He told PA: “I heard a shot and then there was a 20-second gap. Then there were three or four shots together.
“I went over and I saw the first victim, a male victim on the ground, near the White Lion Pub, and people were helping him.
“Then five minutes later, a woman came over and said, ‘I’ve been stabbed too in the back’. And then people started helping her.
“I saw one body lying down further away. He was face-down between Argos and Iceland. It’s really scary.”
Rafe Askem, 21, was having a cigarette outside Maeme’s takeaway when he heard a commotion coming from the Lidl supermarket.
He told PA: “It looked like three boys but I’m not sure.
“I heard a shout, like an ‘ahhh!’ shout. The next thing I saw was a guy on the floor with blood round him. I didn’t see a fight or anything, it seemed quite spontaneous.
“The others were legging it round the other way. I saw police coming so I went straight into the pub.
“I definitely didn’t hear any gunshots. A lot of people messaged me saying there’s gunshots but I didn’t hear any.”
On Sunday evening, forensics officers could be seen near Superdrug and Boots examining the area for clues.
Families could be heard asking police how they would be able to access their homes in light of the incident.
Streatham High Road remains closed with cordons in place, police said.
In a statement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised the emergency services as “the best of us”, adding: “Terrorists seek to divide us and to destroy our way of life – here in London we will never let them succeed.”
Thank you to all emergency services responding to the incident in Streatham, which the police have now declared as terrorism-related. My thoughts are with the injured and all those affected.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 2, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said their thoughts were with the injured.
The London Ambulance Service said the first medics arrived at the scene of the attack four minutes after being called just before 2pm.
The British Red Cross said it was ready to make the UK Solidarity Fund available to those affected by the attack.
The fund was set up in 2017 following the attacks in Manchester and London and offers financial support to victims of terror attacks in need anywhere in the UK.