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Westminster attack: Theresa May's statement following Cobra meeting - 'Forces of evil will not be allowed to drive us apart'

Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee to discuss the immediate response to the bloody incident at the Palace of Westminster.

The 45-minute meeting brought together senior ministers as well as senior police officers, representatives of the security agencies and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mrs May ordered flags to be lowered to half mast over Downing Street as a mark of respect to the innocent people who lost their lives at Westminster.

Among ministers attending this evening's meeting were Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, security minister Ben Wallace, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan.

Absent were Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who was away on an official trip to Pakistan, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in the US for a summit of nations involved in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.

The meeting in Whitehall was addressed by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, Britain's most senior anti-terrorist police officer.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, Mrs May paid tribute to the "exceptional men and women" of the police force who responded to the attack.

She confirmed that a single attacker drove a car into pedestrians walking on Westminster Bridge, killing two of them, before running with a knife through the front gates of the Palace of Westminster, where he killed a police officer before being shot dead.

She vowed that "the forces of evil" would never be allowed "to drive us apart".

Mrs May said that any attempt to defeat the values that Parliament stands for was "doomed to failure".

And she vowed: "We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."

The UK's terror threat level would remain at "severe", Mrs May said.

She praised the bravery of the police officers "who keep us and our democratic institutions safe".

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London attack: Five dead and 40 others injured in Westminster Bridge terror incident 

Theresa May's speech in full

Prime Minister Theresa May's statement following Wednesday's terror attack in Westminster:

"I have just chaired a meeting of the Government's emergency committee, Cobra, following the sick and depraved terrorist attack on the streets of our capital this afternoon.

"The full details of exactly what happened are still emerging, but having been updated by police and security officials I can confirm that this appalling incident began when a single attacker drove his vehicle into pedestrians walking across Westminster Bridge, killing two people and injuring many more, including three police officers.

"This attacker, who was armed with a knife, then ran towards Parliament where he was confronted by the police officers who keep us and our democratic institutions safe.

"Tragically one officer was killed. The terrorist was also shot dead.

"The United Kingdom's threat level has been set at severe for some time and this will not change. Acting deputy commissioner Rowley will give a further operational update later this evening.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected - to the victims themselves and their family and friends who waved their loved ones off but will not now be welcoming them home.

"For those of us who were in Parliament at the time of this attack these events provide a particular reminder of the exceptional bravery of our police and security services who risk their lives to keep us safe.

"Once again today these exceptional men and women ran towards the danger even as they encouraged others to move the other way.

"On behalf of the whole country, I want to pay tribute to them - and to all our emergency services - for the work they have been doing to reassure the public and bring security back to the streets of our capital city.

"That they have lost one of their own in today's attack only makes their calmness and professionalism under pressure all the more remarkable.

"The location of this attack was no accident. The terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.

"These streets of Westminster, home to the world's oldest Parliament, are ingrained with a spirit of freedom that echoes in some of the furthest corners of the globe. And the values our Parliament represents - democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law - command the admiration and respect of free people everywhere.

"That is why it is a target for those who reject those values.

"But let me make it clear today, as I have had cause to do before: any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure.

"Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal. We will come together as normal.

"And Londoners - and others from around the world who have come here to visit this great city - will get up and go about their day as normal.

"They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives.

"And we will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the forces of hate and evil to drive us apart."

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