THE incident at Westminster yesterday, now classified as a terrorist act, happened at an area where tourists flock to for a view of the Westminster Palace and Big Ben, and to take in the sights from the bridge.
It is also a place where security is at an all-time high because of its vicinity to the prime minister’s official residence at Downing Street and government offices.
The incident left four people dead, including the attacker, and according to latest reports, 30 injured, of which seven are in critical condition. An attacker, believed to have acted alone, drove into a crowd on Westminster Bridge, popular among tourists and locals, especially on a sunny day like yesterday.
The attacker, whose name and nationality had not been released, was said to have run to Westminster Palace, where he attacked a policeman with a knife that he was carrying.
The policeman died and the attacker was shot dead at the scene.
The attack, though expected after the attacks in Paris and Berlin in recent years, where ramming into crowds became the modus operandi, still came as a shock.
The city is swarmed with Malaysian tourists spending the school holidays with their family and in group tours.
For Astro Awani news anchor and broadcast journalist Malik Ridhwan, the remainder of his holidays in London turned into an unexpected assignment when news of the incident was flashed on his phone as he was having lunch with some friends in Oxford Street not too far away.
“We immediately finished our food and rushed to Oxford Circus tube station and headed straight away to Charing Cross station,” said Malik, knowing very well that Westminster Station would be closed.
Together with another Astro Awani colleague, Hakim Rahman, and some friends, they walked down Trafalgar Square to Whitehall, in front of Horse Guards Parade, where a crowd of journalists was gathering behind the police security line.
“It was under control as security was tight. Police were ensuring the perimeter is safe within the parliament area. Local and foreign media all rushed to the scene doing live crossovers with their own TV networks,” said Malik, who had reported live to his station via Facebook.
He described the experience as normal for a journalist.
“We have to be alert wherever we are, even when on holiday.”
However, he said, that it would have been unimaginable, had he been there on the bridge taking photographs as tourists are wont to do there.
At press time, it has been confirmed that no Malaysians were injured. The Malaysian High Commission had issued a statement saying that no Malaysians had been involved and that the Malaysian High Commission was in close contact with the local authorities and “currently providing timely updates to the Malaysian community in the city over the incident”.
The social network had been abuzz with news about the incident as soon as it happened about noon yesterday.
Friends and relatives were concerned, sending messages wishing those in London well and safe.
A Facebook Safety Check site tracking down Malaysians in London proved to be comforting when people marked themselves as safe.
However, many Malaysians who had left London had not updated their locations and had caused some worry among those who knew them.
By evening, police vans, with sirens, could be seen tearing down Edgware Road, presumably to the Paddington Green Police Station, a maximum security police station, where terrorist suspects are held.
Police presence was visible at street corners and stations, although there was no atmosphere of tension in the air as was the case of the London bombings in July 2005.
However, there is a feeling of unease among Muslims, weary about the repercussions of such an attack with fingers almost pointing to Muslims.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had been quick to condemn the attack, saying: “London is the greatest city in the world, and we stand together in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.”