A 19-year-old Norwegian teenager of Somali origin went on the London’s tourist hub of Russell Square, killing an American woman in her 60s and injuring five other people, police said Thursday.
Police called to Russell Square at 10.30pm last night after witnesses say screaming victims tried to flee. One witness said: ‘There was a madman running around with a knife just lunging at people randomly and stabbing them. He was just going for anyone he could see.’
The attack came just days after authorities warned the British public to be vigilant in light of attacks inspired by the ISIS group elsewhere in Europe.
Police in Britain do not carry guns for the most part — a principle that remains unchanged. Even with the additional armed officers, most of London’s 31,000 police officers will not be armed.
The London force sent extra officers into the city streets and mobilized counterterror detectives, yet Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said the investigation “increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental-health issues.”
“So far we have found no evidence of radicalization or anything that would suggest the man in our custody was motivated by terrorism,” Rowley said.
The name of the dead woman has not been released. Rowley said the five injured people are British, American, Israeli and Australian, and none has life-threatening injuries. Two remain in a hospital, while three others have been discharged.
Rowley said it appeared to be a “spontaneous attack and that the victims were selected at random.”
Armed officer attended within five minutes and used a stun gun to subdue the suspect. No shots were fired. After receiving treatment in hospital, the man was taken into police custody. In an updated statement this morning. Detectives from the force’s murder and terrorism squads interviewed the suspect, his family and witnesses and searched properties, and found no evidence of radicalization, Rowley said.
The National Criminal Investigation Service in Norway confirmed the suspect was a 19-year-old Norwegian national who had left the country in 2002.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged the public to keep calm and remain vigilant.
“We all have a vital role to play as eyes and ears for our police and security services and in helping to ensure London is protected,” Khan said.
Knives are the most common murder weapon in Britain, which has strict gun-control laws. There were 186 knife killings in the year to March 2015, according to government statistics — a third of all murders.
In the last three years London has seen two knife attacks by people inspired by radical Islam. In May 2013, two al-Qaida-inspired London men killed off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in the street near his barracks. In January, mentally ill Muhiddin Mire tried to behead a London Underground passenger, shouting that he was doing it “for Syria.”