Reading stabbing 'not terror attack', say police after three killed in UK park

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Three people were killed and three seriously injured when an assailant went on a stabbing rampage in a busy park in the southern English city of Reading on Saturday, police said.

The incident is not being treated as terrorism, authorities added, but the motive remains unclear.

The Thames Valley Police force said they had launched a murder investigation, arrested a 25-year old man at the scene and are not pursuing any other suspects.

The UK’s Press Association also reported the arrested person was a Libyan national.

Police officers secure a police cordon near Forbury Gardens park in Reading following a stabbing incident. AFP

A photograph received courtesy of the Twitter user @Cogp79 shows two air ambulances responding in central Reading following a stabbing incident. AFP PHOTO via Cogp79

A general view of Forbury Gardens during a Black Lives Matter protest in Reading. Reuters

A general view of Forbury Gardens during a Black Lives Matter protest in Reading. Reuters

A general view of Forbury Gardens during a Black Lives Matter protest in Reading. Reuters

Police gather at a cordon close to the scene where several people were stabbed in Forbury Gardens, Reading. EPA

Forensic officers work close to the scene where several people were stabbed in Forbury Gardens, Reading. EPA

A person speaks to a police officer at a cordon after reported multiple stabbings in Reading. REUTERS

A police officer gestures next to a delivery rider at the scene of reported multiple stabbings in Reading. REUTERS

Police officers and their vehicles close off a road after reported multiple stabbings in Reading. REUTERS

Armed police officers investigate at a block of flats off the Basingstoke Road in Reading after an incident at Forbury Gardens park in the town centre of Reading, England. PA via AP

Emergency services seen near a block of flats off Basingstoke Road in Reading after an incident at Forbury Gardens park in the town centre of Reading. PA via AP

“There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter. “This is not currently being treated as a terrorism incident; however, officers are keeping an open mind as to the motivation for the incident,” DCS Hunter added. He said detectives from the counter-terrorism unit were supporting the investigation.

The violence began around 7 pm as families and groups enjoyed the early summer sunshine in the Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a town of about 200,000 residents about 65 kilometres west of London.

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort said the park was full of groups socialising 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,” Mr Wort said. “When he realised that he couldn’t catch us, he tried to stab another group sat down. He got one person in the back of the neck and then when he realised everyone was starting to run, he ran out the park.”

Witnesses reported that police cars and helicopters descended on the park after the attack as police blocked off several roads in the city centre and two air ambulances were called to treat the wounded.

Police said that “a number of people were injured and taken to hospital. Tragically, three of these people died, and another three sustained serious injuries.”

The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading said it was treating two casualties from the incident.

Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel said she was “deeply concerned,” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his “thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading”.

"My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Police said that there was not thought to be a link between the violence and a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the park hours before the incident.

Nieema Hassan, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest, said demonstrators had left by the time the violence occurred. In a social media post, she said she was “praying for the people that are affected. I hope they’re OK.”

Britain’s official terrorism threat level stands at “substantial,” the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.

It had previously stood a notch higher, at “substantial,” for several years. The country has been hit by a series of violent attacks in recent years, including a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017 that killed 22 people and two deadly vehicle and knife attacks in London the same year.

Airline worker Carlos Garcia Pascual was walking to his home near Forbury Gardens when emergency vehicles and police officers descended. He said it was “chaos” as police yelled at people to leave the area.

“We didn’t know if it was a situation like … happened in London a few years ago, where the attackers were on the loose,” he said. “Forbury Gardens is a peaceful place, a lot of families go there with their kids to play, picnics. To realize that happened in Forbury Gardens is really hard to believe.” – Additional reporting by AP

Updated: June 21, 2020 11:14 AM

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