American dead, five injured in London stabbing, police say no sign of radicalism
Justin Tallis (AFP)
An American woman was killed and five people injured in a knife attack in central London Wednesday which police said they are investigating for possible terrorist links.
A 19-year-old man was arrested in Russell Square in the city center where the stabbing happened, which is near the British Museum and University of London.
A woman in her 60s was treated by paramedics at the scene but pronounced dead.
Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed that one of its citizens was among the wounded, which were also said to include at least one Spaniard, a Briton, and an Australian.
The arrested man is currently in police custody in hospital.
"Early indications suggest that mental health is a significant factor in this case and that is one major line of inquiry but of course at this stage we should keep an open mind regarding motive and consequently terrorism as a motivation remains but one line of inquiry for us to explore," Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said in a statement.
Officers were called to Russell Square at 10.33pm local time (2133 GMT) following reports a man armed with a knife was attacking people.
The man was arrested six minutes later as a Taser electroshock gun was fired by officers.
The police cordoned off the area, a busy tourist area with a string of high end hotels.
Xavery Richert, 22, a French tourist staying in youth hostel on the square, told AFP: "I was buying a beer when I heard a woman shouting who was being chased by a man.
"I thought it was a bag snatching... she was not hurt. I came out for a cigarette, I went back, there were firefighters, police, and then I saw the body under a sheet. You could only see the feet sticking out."
Russell Square resident Constantine Somerville said: "It's such a safe area and very quiet especially at night -- why would somebody commit an attack in such a quiet area?"
If a terror link is found, it would be the latest in a string of recent jihadist-inspired attacks in Europe.
Last month a driver ploughed a truck through a crowd leaving a fireworks display in Nice, killing 84, and two men slashing a priest's throat in northern France. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
The terror threat level in Britain is currently set at severe -- the second highest ranking -- meaning an attack is "highly likely" and earlier Wednesday London's police announced it would boost the number of armed officers on the streets.
On Sunday, the head of London's Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper that it was a question of "when, not if" an attack happened in the capital.
In the July 7, 2005 terror attacks in London, one of the suicide bombs which hit the city's public transport system was detonated on the London Underground between Russell Square and King's Cross.
While 7/7, which killed 52 people, was the last large-scale terrorist attack in Britain, there have been a string of smaller incidents since.
A paranoid schizophrenic man was sentenced to life behind bars Monday for trying to behead a commuter at a London Underground station in an Islamic State-inspired attack.
Soldier Lee Rigby was killed in south London in 2013 by two British Muslim converts in a terrorist murder.
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