Witnesses described scenes of panic and chaos in the heart of London on Saturday night following a series of vehicle and knife attacks that left at least seven people dead and dozens more wounded.
The attack began when a white van veered off a road in the UK capital and barreled into pedestrians on London Bridge.
Three men then fled the van with large knives and attacked people at packed bars and restaurants in the nearby Borough Market.
“There was a van that crashed into the fences on London Bridge. And then there was a man with a knife, he was running. He came down the stairs and went to the bar,” Dee, 26, who was visibly in shock and declined to give her last name, told the AFP news agency.
Mark Roberts, a 53-year-old management consultant, told the Reuters news agency that at least six people were hit on the bridge.
“It looked like he was aiming for groups of people. I froze because I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “It was horrendous.”
Colum O’Dwyer, who was having dinner at a restaurant near Borough Market, described scenes of panic and hysteria.
“We saw a father and a son running frantically. We saw the bouncers and the security guards from the nearby pubs and restaurants running into the market, and then running back out in pursuit of quite a large guy, who ran into a pub right beside us,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We saw somebody inside the pub, knocking over the chairs we had dinner on,” O’Dwyer added.
“We heard people talking about someone either trying to stab them or stabbing them … Hysteria pretty much kicked in at that point.”
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Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis was near the bridge at the time of the incident.
“Paramedics had [those injured] on their sides, it was a bloody scene,” she said.
“Some were injured about 50 meters behind the van, some were injured about 10 metres from where the van stopped.”
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Kern, who was also close to the scene at the time, said she heard about five or six gun shots and saw crowds fleeing.
“They were running down the street. I saw someone in a T-shirt covered in blood.”
|People leave the London Bridge area wearing foil blankets after the attack [Hannah Mckay/Reuters]|
A restaurant worker said he saw three men wielding big knives attack people at random.
“Three people, just in front of us. They don’t care about nothing, just going like this,” he said, gesturing back and forth.
At least three people were stabbed, he said, adding: “Are they crazy, or are they on drugs?”
Gerard Vowls told The Guardian newspaper that he saw a woman being stabbed by three men at the south end of London Bridge. He said he threw chairs, glasses and bottles at the attackers in a bid to stop them.
“They kept coming to try to stab me. They were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people,” he told the newspaper.
“I want to know if this girl is still alive. I’ve been walking around for an hour and a half crying my eyes out. I don’t know what to do.”
London Bridge: Deaths after car and stabbing attacks
Alex Shellum at the Mudlark pub near the scene of the attack said a woman had come into the bar “bleeding heavily from the neck”.
“It appeared that her throat had been cut,” he told the BBC.
Italian photographer Gabriele Sciotto, who had been watching the Champions League final at the Wheatsheaf pub in Borough Market, said he saw three men shot just outside the pub.
He captured a picture of one of the attackers wearing what appearred to be canisters strapped to his chest.
The 25-year-old Sciotto said he was on his way home when he saw a man running toward him telling him to turn around and run because there was a terrorist attack.
At first, “it didn’t look too dangerous”, he told the Associated Press news agency.
The men went into Borough Market, but they turned around and ran toward the Wheatsheaf Pub after being confronted by a police officer. Sciotto said suddenly a lot of police came from the other direction.
The attackers “had no clue what they were doing. They were scared. The police were scared.”
He took the photograph after the men had been shot.
In his picture, a man wearing combat trousers, with a shaved head and the canister belt, could be seen on the ground with two more bodies behind him.
Police said the three suspects were shot within eight minutes of the first call to the emergency services.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies