After a bizarre series of events, the London Met has insisted that an incident where a car mowed down several pedestrians in North London just days after a car and knife attack in the city center was not terror related.
On March 25th, 2017, the London Metropolitan Police responded in force to reports that a car had struck multiple pedestrians at the Old Queen’s Head pub in the Islington area of London. Multiple occupants of the vehicle fled the scene and one was captured by police. The Met immediately issued a statement claimed terrorism was not suspected. At the same time, Twitter accounts began pushing unconfirmed reports that the incident was the result of a drunk driver. Despite the occurrence of a similar, terror related incident just days before, British media took an incredible amount of time to begin covering the incident, with The Telegraph being one of the only outlets to mention Islington at all for several hours.
However, bystanders on the scene began to question the claims of drunk driving amid an incredibly rapid and heavy police presence involving dozens of officers and a helicopter. An individual who said they were present during the event claimed the driver had been shouting the Takbir (“Allahu akbar,” or Arabic phrase meaning “God is great”), and that one of the assailants was shot by police. A Twitter user also started circulated a photograph they had taken of a large knife dropped on the street at the scene of the crime. Reporters in the United States subsequently posted a statement from a local bar employee on Twitter stating that there were multiple passengers, at least one knife present and that one of the injured had been dragged under a car. There was no subsequent corroboration of statements claiming that shots had been fired.
It was only after the revelation of this information that the Met was finally forced to update their statement, acknowledging that they had arrested four males in between the ages of 17 and 19, and that two knives had been recovered from the scene. They continued to state that terror was not suspected. Outlets such as the Daily Mail began to run updated reports noting the presence of the knives. BBC News did not report on the incident that evening, instead running an article insisting that the London Parliament attacker acted alone around the exact time that reports of the Islington incident began to emerge on social media. The next day, the Evening Standard reported that police had arrested a fifth individual in connection with the previous night’s events, continuing to undermine the notion that terror was not suspected.
The presence of knives at the scene of a crime involving a vehicular assault coming just days after an attack involving both elements in downtown London seriously calls into question the claims of the Met that terror was not a factor in the Islington incident. It follows reports that police in the UK made a number of raids and arrested eight individuals after the Parliament attack, contradicting their claims that the London attacker acted alone. The Islington incident, on the contrary, indicates that police are struggling to handle what may be a volatile terror situation and comes on the heels of a study by think tank the Henry Jackson Society stating that most “lone wolf” attacks committed by ISIS operatives have accomplices.