(LONDON) — Two attackers savagely killed a man believed to be a British soldier just outside army barracks in southeast London, telling eyewitnesses the killing was “an eye for an eye…because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said there were “strong indications this is a terrorist incident” and senior British officials convened an emergency meeting in Britain’s equivalent to the White House Situation Room.
The two attackers hacked the victim to death with large knives and afterward approached eyewitnesses, asking them to start filming with their camera phones. One of the attackers, who spoke with a southern London accent, carried a meat cleaver and his hands were deeply stained with blood as he spoke directly to the camera.
“We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone, your people will never be safe,” the man said calmly, according to ITV News, which obtained the video.
Just a few minutes later, armed police arrived. The two men rushed the police, according to eyewitnesses, and police opened fire, wounding both of them.
The attackers “went for the police with the machetes, knife and handgun,” one eyewitness told the BBC. “I don’t think they cared.”
The attack echoed a plot from 2008, when a British man pleaded guilty to plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier. Police believe it was an isolated incident, but the emergency cabinet meeting ordered security to be tightened around Woolwich, where the attack took place, and other military barracks in London, according to the BBC.
Cameron cut short a visit to France and called the attack “absolutely sickening” and a “most appalling crime.”
“People across Britain, people in every community, I believe, will condemn this attack,” he said at a news conference in Paris. “We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country and we never buckle in the face of them.”
Numerous eyewitnesses emphasized the brutality of the attack.
“These two guys were crazed. They were not there. They were just animals,” a man who identified himself as James told a local radio station. “They then dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Angela Dewan and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Marisa Russell, CNN