London attack could be terror-related, UK official said

LONDON - In a brutal daylight attack which raised fears that terrorism had returned to London, two men with butcher knives and meat cleavers hacked another man to death near a military barracks Wednesday before police wounded both of them in a shootout.

In a shocking video broadcast on British TV, one man gestured with bloodied hands, waving a butcher knife in the air and shouting political statements against the British government as pedestrians milled about a body lying motionless on the street. Bloodstains coated the street.

British officials said the attack appeared to be an act of terrorism, possibly motivated by radical Islam.

The two suspects remained hospitalized on Wednesday night but their identities and that of their victim were not known. One of them was reported to be in serious condition.

The afternoon attack occurred in the southeast London neighborhood of Woolwich, just a few blocks from the Royal Artillery Barracks.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said, "We have launched a murder investigation, being led by the Counter Terrorism Command."

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande, speaking at a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said the slain man was a British soldier. Cameron didn't immediately confirm that fact but the Britain's Ministry of Defense said it was urgently investigating if a U.K. soldier was involved.

Cameron said there were "strong indications" it was a terrorist incident.

"We have suffered these attacks before, we have always beaten them back," Cameron said. "We will not be cowed, we will never buckle."

One British broadcaster ran video footage of what appeared to be one of the attackers, his hands covered in blood, making political statements about "an eye for an eye" to an unknown cameraperson as a body lay behind him on the ground.

There was no immediate way for the Associated Press to verify who the cameraman was.

The footage - obtained by ITV news - showed a man in a dark jacket and knit cap walking toward a camera, clutching a meat cleaver and a knife in what appear to be bloodied hands. With a British accent, he apologized in English for the women passers-by who "have had to witness this" attack, saying that "in our land our women have to see the same."

He gave no indication what that land was.

"We must fight them as they fight us," the man told the camera as people milled around behind him. The camera then panned away to show a body behind the man.

The man who filmed the graphic video of a knife-wielding man told iTV News that he was assured he was in no danger.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said the bloodied man came straight for him when he saw he was filming and told him he was not under threat, iTV reported.

He said he was told: "No, no, no - it's cool, I just want to talk to you."

He told iTV he was initially a little scared but soon realized he would be OK.

He said the man with the bloody hands could have escaped but wanted to explain why he had carried out his actions.

The British Cabinet's emergency committee immediately called a meeting and the prime minister's office said security was stepped up at barracks across London. Cameron cut short his Paris trip to return to London and his office said he would chair another emergency committee meeting Thursday.

The barracks - which house a number of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and independent companies of the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards - were the site of shooting events during the 2012 London Olympics.

Fred Oyat, a 44-year-old who lives in a high-rise near where the attack occurred, said he heard four gun shots and then went straight to the window.

"I saw one man lying there bleeding, another lying on the pavement being disarmed. A policeman was pointing a gun at him. A third man was lying further up the street ... he was bleeding profusely," Oyat said. "There were four knives on the ground - big kitchen knives. The knives were very bloody."

David Dixon, head teacher of a nearby primary school, saw a body lying in the road outside and said police told him there was a serious incident. He told the BBC he then made sure students were inside and put the school into a lockdown mode. He said he then heard shots fired.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is called in when officers are involved in shootings, confirmed that it is investigating the attack.

The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack in a statement released to the media:

"This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family.

We understand the victim is a serving member of the Armed Forces. Muslims have long served in this country's Armed Forces, proudly and with honour.

This attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder. This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom.

We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail."