At least 48 people were rushed to hospitals after three men attacked members of the public in central London. June 3, 2017.
At least 48 people were rushed to hospitals after three men attacked members of the public in central London. June 3, 2017.

At least seven people have been killed in multiple attacks near London Bridge on Saturday, police said.

Police said three attackers drove a van at high speed into pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed people in Borough Market in what authorities declared as a "terrorist incident" just days before a general election.

Armed police rushed to the incidents at London Bridge and nearby Borough Market, a popular nightspot within minutes, and exchanged gunfire before killing the three attackers. Authorities urged Londoners on Twitter to "run, hide, tell" if they were caught up in the violence.

"Unfortunately, seven members of the public have died," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told reporters.

Dick said police believed that the incident was under control, but a large police cordon remained in place in the area, south of the Thames, Sunday.

She added that police patrols will be increased in London, including those by armed officers.

"The suspects had been confronted and shot by police within eight minutes of the first call. The suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but these were later established to be hoaxes," Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said earlier.

On Sunday, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Foreigners among the casualties

The London Ambulance Service said at least 48 people were being treated for injuries in five hospitals across London. Some of them are in critical condition.

Australian and French people are among the casualties from the London attack.

The Elysee Palace also said on Sunday that security would be increased for expatriates voting in London in the upcoming French Parliamentary election. At least two people were directly caught up in the attack, Australian President Malcolm Turnbull. One was in the hospital while the status of the other was unconfirmed.

"Following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism," Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The attacks come days ahead of a June 8 election and less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert by US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England.

The BBC showed a photograph of two possible attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body. Hours after the attack the area remained sealed off and patrolled by armed police and counterterrorism officers.

TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis has more on the story.

'Terrorists hate democracy'

The ruling Conservative Party suspended national campaigning on Sunday, a spokesman for May said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a televised statement that he was not in favour of postponing the election as one of the things terrorists despised is democracy.

"We will never let them win or cower our city or Londoners," Khan said. "The emergency services reacted heroically last night." Khan also praised the security services, calling them the "best in the world".

Gunfire and stabbings

The mayhem began just after 10 pm (2100GMT) when police responded to reports of a vehicle hitting pedestrians on London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames in central London. Multiple witnesses reported a vehicle veering off the road and hitting as many as six pedestrians.

"We saw injured people on the road, injured people on the pavement," witness Will Heaven told Sky News.

Soon after, reports started coming in of stabbings at Borough Market, a nearby area full of bars and restaurants surrounding a popular food market. Witnesses reported seeing as many as three attackers with knives.

People flee the site of the attacks after police secured the area. Source: Reuters
People flee the site of the attacks after police secured the area. Source: Reuters

Police initially said officers were also responding to a third incident, in the Vauxhall neighbourhood, but later said that turned out to be an unrelated stabbing.

Police tweeted a warning telling people in the area to run to safety, hide and then call police if it is safe to do so. They asked Londoners to "remain calm but be alert and vigilant."

Police boats scanned the Thames in the dark while helicopters circled overhead and streets were cordoned off.

An emergency response helicopter landed on London Bridge, while emergency service workers rushed people on trolleys to waiting ambulances.

Members of the public were seen leaving the scene wrapped in foil emergency blankets while armed police patrolled the scene.

Debris could be seen on the bridge where people had fled the scene.

London attacks fast facts:

- Three attackers drove a white van at high speed into pedestrians walking on London Bridge, police said. Police said they responded to the incident on London Bridge at 2208 (2108 GMT).

- The men armed with knives left the vehicle and attacked people in the nearby Borough Market area on the south side of the Thames, witnesses said.

- Police responded to the reports of stabbings in Borough Market and shots were fired.

- Three suspected attackers were killed following the incidents, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said.

- The incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market were declared as terrorist incidents.

- On Sunday, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks

- The attack came less than two weeks after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a concert in Manchester on May 22, killing at least 22.

- A separate incident in Vauxhall, two miles away, was not related to the other two incidents police said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies