LONDON (Reuters) – A man shot dead after stabbing two people on a busy street in south London on Sunday in what police described as a terrorist incident is Sudesh Amman, a former convict who was recently released from prison.
Amman, 20, who was jailed in 2018 for “Islamist-related terrorism offences”, was being tracked by police on foot at the time of attack, which sent people running into nearby shops and emergency services racing to the scene.
One man who had been treated for life-threatening injuries after being stabbed is no longer in a critical condition, while a woman who suffered less serious wounds had been discharged from hospital, police said.
Another woman, hurt by glass after an officer fired his weapon, was still being treated in hospital, said Lucy D’Orsi, deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police.
Some witnesses said the man had been armed with a machete and one said he was wearing silver canisters strapped to his chest. Police later said the device was a hoax.
Footing filmed on the main street in the Streatham district of south London showed two men in plain clothes – one in a hoodie and one wearing a police baseball cap – pointing their guns at a body on the pavement nearby.
“The incident was quickly declared as a terrorist incident and we believe it to be Islamist-related,” said D’Orsi.
She said Amman was shot dead by armed officers, who were part of a proactive counter-terrorism surveillance operation.
Police said it was an isolated incident and the situation had been contained.
Chris Wells was in a shop in Streatham with his daughter when they heard three gunshots outside.
“People just came running in screaming and upset, shouting about a gun. We ran to the back of the shop and were locked in,” he told Reuters.
“We tried to leave to get away and I saw a man in a hoodie with a gun, which I now know was a plain clothes officer,” he said. “And another officer shouted at us to get back inside because there was a bomb threat.”
D’Orsi said Amman, who had been convicted of possession of terrorist material and dissemination of terrorist publications, had recently been released from prison. Sky News reported that he had been freed in January.
“An investigation is taking place at pace to establish the full facts of what happened,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. He said his government would announce plans on Monday for making changes to the system for handling people convicted of terrorism offences.
Sky News quoted Gulled Bulhan, a 19-year-old student from Streatham, as saying he witnessed the shooting.
“I was crossing the road when I saw a man with a machete and silver canisters on his chest being chased by what I assume was an undercover police officer – as they were in civilian clothing,” Bulhan said.
“The man was then shot. I think I heard three gunshots but I can’t quite remember.”
The last such incident in London was in November, when police shot dead a man wearing a fake suicide vest who stabbed two people to death and wounded three more before being wrestled to the ground by bystanders.
That attack, at London Bridge, was carried out by a man with Islamist militant sympathies. He had been jailed for terrorism and released early.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement after Sunday’s incident: “Terrorists seek to divide us and to destroy our way of life – here in London we will never let them succeed.”
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; Writing by Peter Graff and Frances Kerry; Editing by Angus MacSwan, David Clarke and Daniel Wallis