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'Leave our lands': Man knifed to death in suspected London terror attack

With weapons still in his blood-covered hands, one of the suspects in the attack made a long political statement to horrified bystanders.  When police arrived the two suspects charged at officers, who opened fire. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

 

LONDON -- A man was killed by knife-wielding assailants on a London street Wednesday, and a bloodstained suspect at the scene holding a meat cleaver was captured on video telling passers-by: "We swear by the almighty Allah."

Eyewitnesses said the two attackers were later shot by officers, and described the victim as being chopped like a "piece of meat." Those two men were taken to a hospital where they were later arrested.

Local lawmaker Nick Raynsford said the dead man was a British soldier serving at a nearby barracks, but the Ministry of Defence could not immediately confirm this.

The man holding the cleaver was videotaped by a bystander saying: "By Allah we swear by the almighty Allah and we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone."

In the video, obtained exclusively by NBC's UK news partner, ITV News, the man also said: "Leave our lands and we can all live in peace, that's all I have to say."

Prime Minister David Cameron, on a trip to Paris which he cut short to return to London and chair an emergency national security meeting, said: "It is the most appalling crime. Tonight our thoughts should be with the victim and their families and friends.

"People across Britain, people in every community, I believe, will utterly condemn this attack. We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country and we never buckle in the face of them.

Two men attacked another man near a London military barracks, in what British authorities were investigating as a possible terror act. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

"In a free country, the best way to defeat terrorism is to live your life, to show that terrorists can never win."

The two suspects were being treated at separate London hospitals, police said.

A senior British security source said it appeared to be an "ideologically motivated" killing. "From the look of it, it is indeed a low-tech terror attack," the source said.

"I am afraid it is overwhelmingly likely now to be a terrorist attack, the kind the city has seen before," London mayor Boris Johnson said in televised remarks.

The Muslim Council of Great Britain condemned the killing, which it said "will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom."

"This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly," it said. "Our thoughts are with the victim and his family."

A witness identified as James told local radio station LBC that he saw two suspects attack the young victim with knives, including a meat cleaver.

"They were hacking at this poor guy, literally," he told the station. "They were hacking at him, chopping him, cutting him."

Multiple witnesses said the victim was wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of the veterans charity Help for Heroes.

The attack took place less than a mile from a military barracks, in Woolwich, southeast London.

Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May told ITV News she had been briefed by the Director General of the Security Service MI5 on what she called a "sickening and barbaric" attack.

One eyewitness posted on Twitter that he had seen the victim "with his head chopped off" but this was not confirmed by any police or government officials.

Local resident Graham Wilders told the BBC he saw a man pulling out a handgun. He said: 

“As I drove around the corner I see the car on the pavement. I thought there’s been an accident … there was two people leaning over and I thought they were trying to resuscitate him, there was a bloke against the wall.

“Next minute ... another bloke has come along and told me they were actually stabbing him, apparently they actually run the car into him and knocked him down before they done anything.

“And then next minute there was a bloke come along in a silver little car and he got out and he shouted out to everyone ‘someone phone the police.’ So we phone the police. So next minute what happened he actually pulled a handgun out.”

“Next minute I see the silver car shoot off.”

Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford told reporters there were "a number of weapons" used in the attack, including a firearm. 

The attack happened at 2:20 p.m. local time (9:20 a.m. ET), he said. The attackers pounced on the victim in broad daylight.

After making his statement in the video (seen below), the man with the bloody knives walked back to the scene and spoke to the other suspect casually. 

A suspect who allegedly used a machete and a cleaver to hack a man believed to be a soldier to death on a busy London street speaks on camera. Warning: Some viewers may find this video disturbing.

Meanwhile, the New York Police Department on Wednesday said it had increased coverage of the British consulate, military recruiting stations and other locations as a result of the British attack. But department spokesman Paul Browne said those moves were not made based on information those facilities had been targeted, but rather in an abundance of caution.

NBC News' Richard Esposito contributed to this report

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