LONDON: Britain held a national minute of silence yesterday, one year on from the London Bridge terror attack that killed eight people and injured dozens more. Flowers were laid, candles were lit and a religious service was held at Southwark Cathedral – the spot where three men in a van crashed after careening into crowds, before launching a stabbing spree at nearby Borough Market. “Today we remember those who died and the many more who were injured, and also pay tribute to the bravery of our emergency services and those who intervened or came to the aid of others,” said Prime Minister Theresa May.
She branded the June 3 attack “a cowardly attempt to strike at the heart of our freedoms by deliberately targeting people enjoying their Saturday night with friends and family” and noted that seven of the victims were foreign nationals. “This is a reflection of our great cosmopolitan capital, whose energy and values brings together people from across the world, and a tragic reminder that the threat from terrorism transcends borders and impacts us all,” she said.
Yesterday morning, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that a new review of counter-terrorism legislation in Britain would be launched today – including a provision to recruit up to 2,000 extra security officers in Britain’s intelligence services. “One of the other announcements I’ll be making tomorrow is that MI5 will be sharing much more of its information with other organizations,” he said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “Not just with counter-terrorism police but neighborhood police, with local government… to make sure that there is a much higher chance of finding some of these extremists and disrupting plots a lot earlier on.”
Later yesterday, the words #LondonUnited was projected onto the bridge following a minute of silence scheduled at 4:30 pm (1530GMT). Candles were lit by relatives of the victims during the ceremony before an olive tree – known as the Tree of Healing – was planted in the cathedral grounds using compost from floral tributes left on the bridge in the aftermath of the murders.
Among those visiting the cathedral for the service on the south bank of the Thames, that included a procession to the bridge, was Frenchwoman Christine Delcros, 46. She was seriously injured in the vehicle-ramming attack whilst her partner Xavier Thomas, 45, was killed, with his body later recovered from the River Thames. “On the psychological level, the wounds are invisible, but they are the most serious,” she told AFP in an interview this week. “I remain traumatized by the loss of the love of my life, in circumstances beyond my comprehension.”
On Saturday preparations for the ceremony were underway with cleaners working on the bridge – now fitted with anti-vehicle crash barriers to prevent cars and vans from mounting the pavement. On Friday PC Wayne Marques, who took on the three attackers solo with his baton and was stabbed in the head, revealed he was planning to return to work next month after a year of rehabilitation. “I’m just basically trying to get as much of me back as possible,” he said in a video released by the British Transport Police.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who attended the ceremony, said the city will honor the victims “through our actions and standing united against terrorism and in hope for the future”. “The cowardly terrorists who commit these horrific acts do so to try to divide us, to fuel fear and to change how we treat one another. I’m proud of the way we have responded: Standing united in defiance and staying true to our values and way of life,” he said in a statement. The attackers were shot dead outside Borough Market eight minutes after the first emergency call was made. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack, one in a six-month campaign of atrocities that swept Britain last year, claiming a total of 35 lives. – AFP