LONDON (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Britain’s parliament reopened on Thursday (March 23) with a minute’s silence in a gesture of defiance a day after an attacker sowed terror in the heart of Westminster, killing three people before being shot dead.
Sombre-looking lawmakers in a packed House of Commons chamber bowed their heads and police officers also marked the silence standing outside the headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police nearby.
Prime Minister Theresa May is due to address the lower house at 1030 GMT or 6:30pm Singapore time on the attacks.
The attack, which also injured 40 people, shut down Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, leaving hundreds of lawmakers and workers in lockdown for several hours.
Mrs May was in the lobby of the House of Commons before she was whisked to safety in a Jaguar.
The authorities are working on the assumption the attack was "Islamist-related terrorism", and police think they know the identity of the assailant, said Mr Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism policing.
Several arrests were made during a raid in Birmingham, central England, in connection with the attack, according to Sky News and the BBC.
A car crashed into a fence outside Parliament after running down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. A man with a knife then ran through the gate, assaulted unarmed policeman PC Keith Palmer, and was shot. Among the dead were people on the bridge, and French school children were among those hurt.
"The location of this attack was no accident," Mrs May, dressed in black with a quavering voice, said outside her residence - a 10-minute walk from the scene. "The terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our capital city."
Mr Tawhid Tanim, 28, a sales assistant who works near Parliament, described how he heard three gunshots and was told to run by police. "All I could hear was loud shots, gun shots - bang, bang, bang. People started running away. I could see a car had smashed the wall of Parliament," he said. "Police were saying 'move, move."'
The attack comes amid political and economic uncertainty surrounding plans to start withdrawing from the European Union next week. It's London's biggest terrorist attack since the multiple bombing of the transport network in 2005, and strikes a symbolic - and highly fortified - site in the center of London.
It is exactly a year since the worst terror strike in Belgium's history, in which 32 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded at the Brussels airport and Maalbeek metro station. The strike also bore the hallmarks of similar attacks carried out elsewhere in Europe, where vehicles have been used to mow down pedestrians.
It comes a day after Britain joined the US in unveiling new security measures banning laptops from flights from some Middle Eastern countries.
Britain's last major terrorist attack was in July 2005, when four Muslim extremists targeted morning rush hour, killing 52 civilians. More recently, in June 2016, Labour lawmaker Jo Cox was killed by a right-wing extremist, while in May 2013 a British soldier was stabbed to death outside his south-west London barracks by two men.
British police have arrested record numbers on suspected terrorist charges since the country's terror threat was raised to its second-highest level in August 2014. Mr Rowley said extra police officers, both armed and not, will roam the streets of London and the army will be called upon if needed. The alert level remains unchanged.
Mrs May struck a defiant tone in addressing the country, urging people to carry on.
"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," she said.
"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."