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Murder In South London Treated As Terrorist Attack

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron says there are strong indications there was a terrorist attack in London today. A man was hacked to death in the street, close to a military barracks, and he may have been a serving British soldier. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: It happened early afternoon, local time, in the South London neighborhood of Woolwich. Witnesses say two young men rammed the victim with a car and then attacked him on the sidewalk. One witness said they killed him with knives and a machete and dumped his body in the middle of the street. The attackers didn't try to escape. They brandished their weapons, including a handgun, and encouraged confused onlookers to film them. One passerby captured this footage, apparently of one of the attackers. It was broadcast by Britain's ITV News.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

REEVES: When armed police eventually arrived, the two attackers charged at them, says witness Graham Wilders.

GRAHAM WILDERS: They actually went for the police with the machetes, the knife and the handgun. They didn't really care.

REEVES: The police shot and injured them. A local politician says he was told the dead man was a serving British soldier. This hasn't been confirmed. Speaking in Paris, Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, said his government is urgently seeking the full facts, but there are strong indications this was a terrorist attack.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: People across Britain, people in every community, I believe, will utterly condemn this attack. We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country, and we never buckle in the face of them.

REEVES: Cameron has cut short his visit to France to return to London. Ministers and security chiefs are holding emergency meetings of Cobra, the government's crisis response committee. The full picture is still not clear. Many British military personnel have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. The worry for the British is that this incident may signal the return of a tactic used years ago by Irish Republican militants: pre-meditated attacks on British soldiers inside England. Philip Reeves, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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