Elite SAS Counter-Terrorism unit is Deployed to London

London Bridge terror attackElite SAS unit ‘Blue Thunder’ are deployed for first time after London terror attack.

MAIL Online, By Scott Campbell and Ekin Karasin and Stewart Paterson For Mailonline, 4 June 2017

Elite SAS ‘Blue Thunder’ unit lands helicopter on London Bridge as soldiers are scrambled to hunt three jihadi terrorists who shouted ‘this is for Allah’ before killing seven in a knife frenzy

  • The ‘Blue Thunder’ squad which can be scrambled at a moment’s notice joined in the hunt for three attackers
  • Armed police officers wearing masks have this morning been deployed to Borough Market to search the area 
  • Seven people are confirmed dead and at least 48 others injured and taken to six hospitals around London 
  • Three jihadis were shot dead by armed police who arrived on the scene within eight  minutes of attack 
  • Comes just days after the UK’s terror threat level was reduced down to severe from critical  
  • Special Forces unit had been rehearsing terror scenarios including how to take out rampaging jihadis
  • Soldiers in the 70-strong unit were supported by an Apache helicopter gunship with powerful cameras
  • Three men reportedly drove a van at 50mph across London Bridge then went on a knife rampage
  • Three attackers wore metal canisters strapped to their chests and all three were shot dead by armed police  
  • Conservatives have have suspended  election campaigning and a Cobra emergency meeting is underway 
  • Did you see what happened? Please email darren.boyle@mailonline.co.uk or call 0203 615 3247

Three attackers were being hunted down by the 70-strong Special Forces unit which was dispatched on the direct orders of the Home Secretary.

The ‘Blue Thunder’ squad – an elite Special Forces unit which can be scrambled at a moment’s notice – was dispatched to join in the hunt for the attackers.

It had been rehearsing terror scenarios for months – including how to take out lone wolves and multiple rampaging jihadis.

It comes just days after Theresa May reduced the country’s terror threat level down from critical to severe, which means that a terrorist attack is ‘highly likely’.

Thousands of armed police officers were deployed across the streets of Britain after the Manchester Arena attack, in which 22 people were killed.

Speaking outside Scotland Yard this morning, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cerrisa Dick has now confirmed that a seventh person was killed in last night’s attack at London Bridge and Borough Market.

She said: ‘As you know, our officers confronted suspects and brought this terrible incident to a conclusion within eight minutes.

‘This is a fast-moving investigation. We will have increased patrols in many areas by police and this will include armed police.’

London Bridge station and underground station remain closed as armed police carry out a search of Borough Market. 

 Soldiers in the Blue Thunder unit – which is nicknamed after its unmarked helicopter – were supported by an Apache helicopter gunship which uses powerful cameras to relay live pictures to commanders on the ground.

The Prime Minister last month put thousands of soldiers on the streets in the wake of the Manchester bombings as part of Operation Temperer.

Theresa May also increased the UK’s terror threat level from ‘severe’ to ‘critical’ – but that was lowered last week with troops being hauled off the streets.

It came just days before the attack on London – with three men described as being ‘of Mediterranean origin’ mowing down up to 20 people with a white van at 50mph on London Bridge on Saturday night.

They then began ‘randomly stabbing’ revellers with 12-inch hunting knives.

One person was killed at London Bridge – and one of the casualties is reportedly a police officer. At least 48 people others were taken to six hospitals across London.

The terrorists also stormed busy pubs and restaurants in the nearby Borough Market, where a man was reportedly stabbed five times in the chest. A ‘dark-skinned’ man in a red tracksuit ‘calmly’ stabbed a man three times, a witness said.

The gang had metal canisters strapped to their chests and two were reportedly shot dead by armed police. A search is underway for the three other men. One man has been arrested on Borough High Street.

All three suspects were gunned down and killed by armed police.

50 armed police entered Monument station with police dogs and bystanders were told to run. Bank and Monument tube stations have been closed. There were also unconfirmed reports of gunfire on Southwark Street.

Terrifying footage from the scene shows police officers shouting ‘Clear the scene now!’ as panicked pedestrians flee. London Ambulance said multiple resources were attending the area.

The car that the three men were in have veered in an ‘S shape’ across the bridge and drove towards the Shard and was south of the river. There are unconfirmed reports that it is a B&Q and Hertz van.

One woman said she saw three people with what appeared to be their throats cut at London Bridge. There are also reports that a bystander was shot in the head in the crossfire and at least seven people have been stabbed.

‘The men said this is for Allah as they left the van and attacked victims. There were definitely three people sitting at the front of the van,’ London Bridge eyewitness Eric Seguenzo told BBC News.

He added: ‘I thought the van was travelling on wrong side of the road, as though the brakes had failed. The white van had yellow stripes, veered to the right and people tried to jump out the way.’

It has been reported that an SAS helicopter has been deployed to central London. A black unmarked helicopter was pictured at London Bridge.

Police are advising people who live within the London Bridge cordon to stay somewhere else tonight if they can.

Another witness said: ‘No one hurt from van impact but as the men got out the van they started kicking, punching and stabbing victims they ran over. It was a rampage.’

The bridge is in lock down and the area around it is closed with bus routes being diverted, as armed police and a bomb squad attend the scene and boats search the Thames for bodies – amid reports that people were pushed into the water.

One witness reported seeing a van crash into a lamppost by the Barrowboy and Banker pub past the bridge.

She added: ‘Just trying to get away at the moment. There are no trains leaving so we’re just panicking a little.’

A bystander said a friend was in Applebee’s Restaurant in Borough Market when suddenly the waiters pulled down all the shutters.

‘They looked outside and saw two men lying dead in the street, one had what looked like a suicide vest on him. Police told everyone in the restaurant to stay inside, then a minute or two later they heard two or three shots fired.’

There were also claims that a topless man had been handcuffed and taken into custody.

Barman Alex Martinez was forced to take shelter in a bin when a knifeman stormed the Borough restaurant in which he worked.

He said: ‘I remember that I was working behind the bar and one man entered into my restaurant and that’s it – I remember about the third table, second one, next to the door, a man dropped everything and ran out.

‘I just tried to be safe, I jumped down behind a big wall, now I feel my pain in my arm, I feel pain.

‘I saw that man with a knife in his hand and after that a man started screaming so I knew something wrong was happening.

‘The man started screaming and dropping everything on the floor, the plates, the cutlery, the bottle, everything, he dropped it.’

He recalled hearing someone crying near his bin and said the two exchanged reassurances.

One man who was in a pub by the Shard told MailOnline: ‘I was feet away from getting stabbed. Saw so many people literally dying. Was in a pub and they were at the door stabbing people.’

Will Orton, 25, said: ‘We were in the Sheaf pub. Basically lots of people came running inside, we didn’t really know what was going on.

‘We thought maybe there was a fight or something outside. And then there were almost hundreds of people coming inside.

‘The bouncers did a really good job, they shut the doors and locked everyone in. There was panic – it seemed like it was literally outside the door. People were coming inside and saying they had witnessed people being stabbed.

‘They had seen and witnessed people being stabbed. It seemed like it was happening immediately outside the entrance.’

Hours after the initial attack two loud blasts were heard near London Bridge although police were said to have looked ‘calm’ about the explosions.

It is thought that they could have been controlled explosions carried out by officers.

Theresa May called the events in London a ‘potential act of terrorism’ after reports of a van hitting pedestrians, stabbings and armed police firing shots around the London Bridge area.

‘Following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism,’ May said in a statement.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called the terrorist incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market ‘deliberate and cowardly’, adding: ‘There is no justification whatsoever for such barbaric acts’.

Police responded to a third incident in Vauxhall, south London, which later turned out to be an unrelated stabbing. Officers are telling people ‘you must run, hide and tell’.

The attacks in the streets of London come just days after armed troops were pulled off the streets of Britain.

Thousands of soldiers were deployed by the Prime Minister following the bombing at Manchester arena as she raised the UK threat level from ‘severe’ to ‘critical’.

At least one person is believed to have been stabbed in the doorway of the Southwark Tavern in Southwark Street. Drinkers are said to have thrown chairs and glasses at the attacker as he stormed the pub.

Ben and his wife Natalie were in Borough Market near the Southwark Tavern. They told BBC Radio 5 Live that they saw a ‘dark-skinned man in a red tracksuit’ stabbing a man.

Ben said: ‘We saw people running away and then I saw a man in red with a large blade, at a guess 10 inches long, stabbing a man, about three times.

‘I was across the road about 15m away. [The attacker] was dark-skinned and had a red tracksuit on.

‘It looked like the man had been trying to intervene, but there wasn’t much he could do. He was being stabbed quite coldly and he slumped to the ground.’

Police are treating injured people and carrying them away at the end Thrale Street. Members of the public were told by police to ‘run as fast as they could’ westbound.

Kumi de Costa was caught up with her two friends at the incident in Borough Market. She told the BBC what she saw:

‘The cab driver turned into the market and we got stuck right in the middle of the shooting we were in a one-way street and couldn’t turn around.

‘There were loads of shots being fired. Two people were on the floor behind the church with two or three people leaning over them.

‘About 50 police were pointing guns at us – the cab driver had the laser pointed right at them, our hands were up, we were trying to get out so they shooed us away.

‘A man was coming out of the restaurant, he had a napkin on his neck with blood pouring out, there was another man lying on the floor. I don’t know if he was in the recovery position or dead.

‘We weaved through little side streets where the police were telling us to go to Blackfriars Bridge and we could see people looking over the side; people had maybe jumped over the bridge.

‘A couple of times we had to lie down on the floor of the cab because of the shooting around us.’

Police have told people to ‘remain calm, but be alert and vigilant.’ They added: ‘We are using all necessary skills and resources at London Bridge, Borough Market and Vauxhall.’

Bursts of gunfire were heard as witnesses described how one man was arrested after police stormed towards a house in Southwark.

The Asian man in his mid thirties had his hands tied behind his back as up to 30 police frogmarched him down the street shouting at people to get back.

Eyewitness John Bennet said: ‘As I was walking up the Borough High Street the police were crowded round a house on the right hand side.’

‘They had shields and were wearing masks and were running across the street shouting at one another.

‘I heard what sounded like short bursts of gunfire. Suddenly they started shouting at us ‘run away’ ‘ get back’ and people really were running for their lives.

‘About 15 of us were running down Borough High street toward London Bridge followed by 30 armed police. They were spread put across the street.

‘They had a man. There were four police either side of him and others crowded round. They had his hands tied behind his back.

‘He was Asian man, about 5ft 6in, dark hair, mid thirties with stubble. wearing a dark jacket. He was being frogmarched quickly down the street. They crowded round him at the first corner then we were all ushered away as they extended the cordon.

‘It was really scary. The police were round on a corner on the street, they had shields and guns. Then everyone started running, they had arrested a guy and were running with him.’

A security guard who oversees a number of pubs in the area has told the BBC he saw four people stabbed by three attackers.

The man, who was deeply shocked and asked not to be named, said he was at the Market Porter pub when a colleague at another bar said there was a stabbing at the Borough Bistro pub nearby.

He said he went towards this pub and saw that ‘everybody started running’ and there was screaming.

The eyewitness added that he saw three attackers, one of whom had a long knife and stabbing people, including a girl in her early 20s.

Alex Shellum was in the Mudlark pub with his girlfriend and two friends, underneath London Bridge, at the time of the incident.

‘At around 10pm an injured woman came into the pub seeking assistance. She was bleeding heavily from the neck – it appeared that her throat had been cut. People sought to stem the bleeding and the pub was closed.

‘Outside the pub, emergency services were performing CPR on a further individual. From there, we were instructed to move along by armed police.’

They sought refuge with some others at Bill’s restaurant in the market.

‘Police instructed us to wait in the kitchen whilst they swept the surrounding area. We were then ordered to leave the restaurant by armed police – we were then escorted at running speed away from the area.’

There are about 20 people being treated at the Andaz Hotel near Liverpool Street station.

One woman has been stretchered into an ambulance along with a young man with a heavily bandaged and bloodied head. Most of the wounded have now been moved.

People staying in the Premier Inn Bankside have been evacuated across Southwark Bridge. Dozens, including children, were brought across the bridge by police after the fire alarm in the hotel went off, according to one.

Samuel Templeton, from Belfast, one of the guests in the hotel, said there was a heavy police presence and they were told to cross the bridge in single file. The guests have since been escorted to a nearby hotel.

Downing Street said in a statement: ‘The prime minister is in contact with officials and is being regularly updated on the incident at London Bridge.’

Jeremy Corbyn has tweeted: ‘Brutal and shocking incidents reported in London. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.’ #LondonBridge’.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: ‘Dreadful news from London. My thoughts are with all those affected.’

President Donald Trump has tweeted in the wake of the horrifying events: ‘We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!’

‘Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!’

An hour after the attack witnesses reported seeing ‘large numbers of marked and unmarked vehicles’ speeding around the streets south of London Bridge amid a hunt for the suspects.

Others said they had been told to ‘run’ by armed officers or escorted under guard through empty streets in groups.

One eyewitness who wished to remain anonymous told MailOnline: ‘I was in Arabica restaurant with a friend in borough market.

‘Suddenly there was commotion and people were screaming.  Security guards were yelling at people to get back from the window. About 50 people piled into the restaurant. Then I heard two separate bursts of gunfire and people rushed into the restaurant kitchens to hide. It was utter chaos.

‘Some people tried to leave the kitchens via the back door but some of us tried to keep people calm.  We hid for 45minutes and then were evacuated from the market by armed police.’

Several police officers have stormed a pub opposite the bridge and told people to ‘get down’ and sit on the floor.

A cab driver told LBC that three men jumped out of the van.

He said: ‘They just had these long blades, about 12 inches long. They just went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people. A young girl got stabbed in the chest, she was laying there – it’s so sad.

‘I thought, ‘I’m gonna try and hit him, I’m gonna try and knock him down’. I spun the cab round, I was about to ram one of them, but he side-stepped and three police officers came running towards them with their batons drawn.

‘I was shouting at everybody, just get away from the area, stay back, just run the other way. There were a good few hundred people out there.’

‘He’s veered across the road towards the right hand of where Southwark Cathedral is and rammed it where the steps are.

‘He just rammed it towards them, wedged it in between the lamppost and the steps and so he’s hit people there.

‘They’ve jumped out of the van and started stabbing people randomly. There was a scattering of people.’

Pictures of the white van will be circulated across London.

Tony Murphy, who has a flat opposite Southwark Bridge, said he heard ‘rapid gunfire’.

He said: ‘I’m actually former military. I heard what was significant gunfire.

‘At first I thought it was fireworks but it was so rapid I recognised what it was.

‘It went on for quite a long time. The response took about 10 minutes. I immediately text my family and they said they heard it. It was tremendous gunfire.’

Holly Jones, a BBC reporter at the bridge when the incident happened, said a van had swerved off the road into a crowd of pedestrians.

‘A white van driver came speeding – probably about 50mph – veered of the road into the crowds of people who were walking along the pavement,’ she told BBC News.

‘He swerved right round me and then hit about five or six people. He hit about two people in front of me and then three behind.’

Ms Jones later reported seeing a man being arrested by police. She said he was handcuffed and had his shirt off.

Witness Alessandro told the BBC that he saw a van at the end of London Bridge with no driver inside and described the ‘five or six’ people hit as ‘very young’.

He said: ‘I was going up the stairs of London Bridge Station. I saw this van going left and right trying to hit as many people as he could. I tried to help people.

‘At the end of the bridge we saw a van but we didn’t see anyone in the van.

‘I think [the driver] went to the end of London Bridge. We didn’t see the van stop because we were trying to help people.

‘Everything was confused. There were five or six people [hit]. Three of them were conscious. One of them was not talking at all. He was just down.

‘The five or six people we tried to help were really young.’

Another taxi driver named only as Paul said: ‘I was just going over London Bridge and on the left hand side it looked like someone had been knocked off a bike.

‘A few yards on I saw another person laying down and a woman screaming.

‘A few yards on from that there was a couple of bodies on the right hand side.’

Nick Archer, who was in the London Bridge area, told Sky News: ‘We came out (of a bar) on to the road and looked and looked to my left and there is a guy, I thought he was just drinking but he was lying on the floor.

‘And then a couple of seconds later, about three police vans flew past. ‘He looked in a bad way.’

London Bridge and the area around it has been closed due to a ‘major police incident’, TFL said.

London Bridge station has been closed and no trains are expected until the end of service.

Holly, who said she was just two metres away from being hit by a white van, described the chaos on London Bridge after the attack.

She told Radio 5Live: I was probably two metres away. I saw it hit the people in front of me. I feel just so lucky now.

‘It was all a blur, but as much as I can remember it was a male on their own [driving the van]. There are five people on the floor being attended too. There are loads of city police officers helping and boats on the Thames searching.’

The BBC’s Holly Jones spoke to a French woman who had been injured in the incident.

She told Ms Jones: ‘I don’t know where those other two people are. So the police are checking the Thames.

‘They were right near the edge of the bridge. It looks potentially they could have been thrown over.’

Witnesses told the BBC that a white van veered off the road on London Bridge and hit five or six people.

One witness wrote on Twitter: ‘Passerby says 15-20 people have been run over. Another says 7 or 8.’

‘Horrific scene at London Bridge. Bodies strewn over the pavement, B&Q van mounted the pavement. I feel sick,’ one witness wrote.

‘On a boat travelling under London Bridge. Buses stopped. Police lights everywhere and boats checking the water. Please let everyone be okay!’ another added.

Police are dealing with a major incident and all routes are being diverted.’

The Metropolitan Police posted on Twitter: ‘We are dealing with an incident on London Bridge, when we have more information we will update this twitter feed.’

London Bridge is closed both ways due to a police incident, Tfl said, warning the public to avoid the area.

Scotland Yard said officers were at the scene and they would update with further information.

London Ambulance said multiple resources were attending the area.




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