ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Violence in central London today - police shot and killed a man who had attacked people with a knife near London Bridge. Two of the people he stabbed have died. Here's assistant police commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu.
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NEIL BASU: Due to the nature of the incident, we responded as though this was terrorist-related. I'm now in a position to confirm that it has been declared a terrorist incident.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt is following this story from London.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What more can you tell us about the attack and the police response?
LANGFITT: Well, this happened around 2 o'clock, and it was - a male assailant slashed a number of people, wounding some seriously. This was near London Bridge, as you were saying. What was striking, Ari, is he was - it appears that he was subdued by civilians who ended up disarming him. Now, police quickly cleared the immediate area. The man was wearing what looked like an explosive vest. Police later said it was a hoax. And then the police shot him and killed him while he was lying on the sidewalk.
SHAPIRO: There have been a lot of videos that civilians have put out who were around the scene, and you see these people who were bystanders responding in a pretty extraordinary way to a man with a lethal weapon. Tell us what they did.
LANGFITT: It is absolutely striking. What you see - and these are videos that were shot, one from - it looks like from a double-decker bus, the other from a car, some from the sidewalk. And you see a scrum of ordinary civilians basically holding this guy down on London Bridge. And there's a man in a suit who actually has what looks like a butcher knife, and it appears that he's either - in the scuffle, he - the man lost the knife or the civilians disarmed him. And it's only sort of - there's even a guy who's in jeans who the police actually pull off the attacker, and...
SHAPIRO: He tackled the man, it appears.
LANGFITT: Yeah. And they pulled this guy off basically to clear it, presumably because they're afraid - I don't know for sure - that this vest is real. And that's when the police shoot him. They fire a couple of shots. You can hear them in some of the videos. So tonight, Mayor Sadiq Khan - he praised the first responders, but he really had a lot of admiration for the London citizens who got involved in this. And this is what he had to say.
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SADIQ KHAN: So what's remarkable about the images we've seen is the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them. And they really are the best of us risking their own personal safety to try and save others, and I want to say thank you to them.
SHAPIRO: Frank, this is not the first terror attack London has seen recently - in fact, not even the first around London Bridge.
LANGFITT: No, it's not. There have been at least - depending on how you count it, Ari, at least five attacks in under three years. And this is the second attack on London Bridge since 2017, and there were similar characteristics. The earlier one was much worse as far as we can tell. In that case, three men drove a van across London Bridge - you probably remember this; a lot of listeners would remember it - hitting people. Then they jumped out. They also had knives. They went through Borough Market on a - I think it was a Saturday night, and they were stabbing people. They also had fake suicide vests, and police shot them - so very, very familiar. But it looks so far that we don't have the sort of injuries or fatalities that we had in that case.
SHAPIRO: How are people in London reacting today?
LANGFITT: You know, it's really interesting, Ari. I was on the train today, and people were not talking about it. I did raise it, and somebody said to me, I'm glad they shot him. And I would say that since there has been a lot of this and this is a city that does have a reputation for being tough - it's been through a lot over the years - there's more of a sense of defiance. And that sort of - there's been a lull recently, so I think people were surprised that this happened again. But there's sort of a - I would say more anger than fear, people just sort of saying, well, this is what we have to deal with here in London - and I think very proud that the citizens took it into their own hands to stop this guy.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London, thank you.
LANGFITT: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.