READING, England (AP) — A stabbing rampage in Britain that killed three people as they sat in a park on a summer evening is being considered a terrorist attack, British police said Sunday as a 25-year-old believed to be the lone attacker was in custody.
Authorities said they were not looking for any other suspects, and they did not raise Britain’s official terrorism threat level from “substantial.”
“Motivation for this horrific act is far from certain,” said Neil Basu, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer, as police combed the park where the carnage unfolded in Reading, a large commuter town west of London.
Three people were killed and three others seriously wounded in the stabbing attack that came out of the blue in Reading’s Forbury Gardens park on Saturday evening.
Basu said “incredibly brave” unarmed officers from the Thames Valley Police force arrested a 25-year-old local man at the scene. The Thames Valley force later said counterterrorism detectives were taking over the investigation.
“There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter.
The Press Association news agency reported the suspect was an asylum-seeker from Libya who was living in Reading. Police have not identified him.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was being briefed on developments. His office said Johnson had met security officials, police and senior ministers on Sunday for an update on the investigation.
Police officers patrolled cordons on the roads leading to the park on Sunday, and blue-and-white tents were erected near the site of the attack. Overnight, heavily armed officers entered an apartment about a mile away, and a loud bang was heard.
The attack came a sunny summer evening in Reading, a town of 200,000 residents 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London, as eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions allowed more people to socialize.
Personal trainer Lawrence Wort said the park was full of groups sitting on the grass when “one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them.”
“He stabbed three of them severely in the neck and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running,” Wort said.
The attack came hours after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Forbury Gardens, but police said there was no connection between the two.
Britain has been hit by several terror attacks in recent years, both by people inspired by the Islamic State group and by far-right extremists. Islamist-inspired attacks include a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people in 2017 and two deadly vehicle and knife attacks in London the same year.
In several cases, attackers have been known to police. In November, a man who had been released after serving a prison sentence for a terrorism offense stabbed two people to death at a justice conference in London.
In February, a man recently released from prison after serving time for terrorism-related offenses strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a busy London street before being shot to death by police. No one else was killed.
Britain’s official terrorism threat level stands at “substantial,” the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.