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London Bridge terror attack: University of Cambridge ‘gravely concerned’ for staff, students and alumni

The University of Cambridge says it is “gravely concerned” at reports that its staff, students and alumni were caught up in today’s terror attack by London Bridge.

Senate House at the University of Cambridge.
Senate House at the University of Cambridge.

Two members of the public died following the stabbing attack. Police shot dead a suspect at the scene, who was wearing a hoax explosive device.

Three more people were injured. The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, said one is critical but stable, a second is stable and a third has less serious injuries.

The attack began inside Fishmonger’s Hall, where a ‘Five year celebration alumni event’ run by Learning Together, a project on prison-based learning set up by the university’s Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning, was being held between 11am and 4pm.

Police have now confirmed the suspect was Usman Khan, 28, a former prisoner allowed out on licence last year, after being convicted of a terrorist offence in 2012.

Khan, who had been living in Staffordshire, was a guest at the event, where prison rehabilitation was being discussed. The Times reported the man had threatened to ‘blow up’ the building.

It is believed the assailant was wearing an electronic tag, having been released from prison on licence a year ago.

A statement from the university said: “We are gravely concerned at reports that University of Cambridge staff, students and alumni were caught up in the incident at London Bridge.

“We are urgently seeking clarification and further details. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by these terrible events.”

Learning Together is an education initiative, set up by Dr Amy Ludlow and Dr Ruth Armstrong, that brings together people in criminal justice and higher education institutions.

Among its work in the past has been bringing together Cambridge graduate criminology students and students at HMP Grendon to learn criminology together over an eight-week programme.

Inside the anniversary event were academics, students and representatives from the criminal justice system.

Outside, members of the public bravely confronted the attacker as he ran along London Bridge. Videos show one of them fired water at him with a fire extinguisher, while another wielded a stick, reported by one witness to be a narwhal tusk taken from Fishmonger’s Hall.

In footage that has been shared on social media, a man appears to run away having retrieved a large knife from the assailant, who was grappled to the floor.

Police shot dead the attacker just minutes after the incident began.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “I am deeply saddened and angered that our city has again been targeted by terrorism. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must now inform you that, as well as the suspect who was shot dead by police, two of those injured in this attack in the London Bridge area have tragically lost their lives.

“My heart goes out to their loved ones and to the three further injured victims who I understand are being treated in hospital, and of course to everybody who has been affected by today’s terrible and mindless events.

“The attack started at Fishmonger’s Hall in the City of London. My understanding is that police were called at 1.58pm and City of London police officers had bravely and professionally confronted the suspect by 2.03pm, just five minutes later.

“If you are concerned about anyone who was there today please try to contact them and if you cannot, then get in touch with us.

“I want to thank all the emergency service personnel who are currently working tirelessly to deal with this incident, particularly the police officers from the Met and the City who have worked so closely together to protect the public.

“I also want to thank the members of the public who have helped, either by showing extraordinary courage by stepping in or by following the instructions they’ve been given by officers at the scene and in the area. This support from our public assists us more than you could know.

“In the coming days you will see more police, both armed and unarmed, patrolling our streets to help reassure those who are understandably concerned. Similarly our Counter Terrorism detectives will be working round the clock to identify those who have lost their lives, to support all the victims and their families. We are also working at full-tilt to understand exactly what has happened and whether anyone else was involved. For this reason we expect cordons to remain in place around the London Bridge area for some time.

“This afternoon I met with the Prime Minister and the home secretary, and also had a meeting with the mayor; I’m very grateful for all their support. Indeed, we have been working closely with the government at every level, and just as closely with our partners across London. This will obviously continue in the coming days.

“This joint effort mustn’t stop with the authorities though. As you know we are treating this as a terrorist incident. Fighting terrorism takes effort and determination from all of us. If you have any information or concerns, please do contact us.

“The empty ideology of terror offers nothing but hatred and today I urge everyone to reject that. Ours is a great city because we embrace each other’s differences. We must emerge stronger still from this tragedy. In doing that we will ensure that the few who seek to divide us will never, ever succeed.”

The Met Police's AC Neil Basu. Picture: Mark Patrick / Met Police
The Met Police's AC Neil Basu. Picture: Mark Patrick / Met Police

Earlier Neil Basu, the Met Police’s assistant commissioner for specialist operations, had said: “I can confirm that at approximately 2pm today, Friday, 29 November, police were called to a stabbing at a premises near to London Bridge, EC1.

“Emergency services attended, including officers from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police.

“A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from City of London Police and I can confirm that this suspect died at the scene.

“A number of other people received injuries during the incident and as soon as we can provide further updates on their condition, we will. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to those anxiously awaiting news from loved ones.

“As you would expect, due to the nature of the incident, we responded as though it was terrorist-related. I am now in a position to confirm that it has been declared a terrorist incident. We are working jointly with the City of London Police as we continue to respond.

“Officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command are now leading this investigation. I must stress, however, that we retain an open mind as to any motive. It would not be appropriate to speculate further at this time.

“Due to reports that the suspect may have had an explosive device, specialist officers also attended the scene and wide cordons are in place to ensure there remains no further danger to the public.

“However, I can confirm that at this time, we believe a device that was strapped to the body of the suspect is a hoax explosive device. Officers continue to carry out meticulous searches in the area to ensure there is no outstanding threat to the public.

“Those extensive cordons will remain in place for a considerable time and I would ask the public please continue to avoid the area.

“Public safety is obviously our top priority and we will be enhancing police patrols in the City and across London.

“I would ask anyone with information, image or footage of the incident that this be shared with our investigation team to do so on the UK Police Image appeal website. I would also ask the public to continue to remain vigilant and report any concerns they have to police.”

Prime Minister: ‘Anybody involved will be hunted down’

Following today’s attack, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “While this is an ongoing investigation, the police can confirm that this was a terrorist incident.

“And clearly my thoughts are first with emergency services with the police the bravery that they showed in going towards danger as they do. I also want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others. And for me, they represent the very best of our country, and I thank them on behalf of all of our country.

“I think we’re all very saddened also to learn that some people have been injured in this event and our sympathies are very much with them and with their loved ones.

“Clearly the Metropolitan Police are continuing their investigations, and I can assure you and assure everyone that anybody involved in this crime, in these attacks, will be hunted down and will be brought to justice.

“The message that we send to them and anyone associated with this type of attack is one that will be familiar, and that is that this country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack and our values our British values will prevail.”

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘We will not be cowed by those who threaten us’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “My heart goes out to the victims of this appalling attack.

“We owe a deep debt of gratitude to our police and emergency services and the brave members of the public who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.

“We must remain united across all our communities and we cannot let our democratic process be derailed by acts of terror.

“We are suspending campaigning in London tonight as a mark of respect for those who suffered in this attack. We will not be cowed by those who threaten us. We must and we will stand together to reject hatred and division.”

Jo Swinson: ‘We can never take our security for granted’

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: “Our emergency services have once again displayed the courage and professionalism that keeps us safe everyday. I am hugely grateful to each and every one of them. My thoughts are with the people who were injured and all those affected by this appalling display of violence.

“Today’s incident reminds us that we can never take our security for granted. We must never forget the vital work that our police and security services do to keep us safe. Those who seek to terrorise us, divide us or undermine our freedoms will never succeed.”

London Bridge was also the scene of an attack on June 3, 2017, in which eight people were killed.

Anyone with information can call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. Anyone who may have footage or images of the incident can send them to police via www.ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk.

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