A stabbing attack that left three people dead as they sat in a British park on Saturday evening is being considered a terrorist attack, police said on Sunday.
A 25-year-old man, who is believed to be the lone attacker, is in custody.
Officials are not searching for any other suspects and did not raise Britain’s official terrorism threat level from “substantial.”
Three other people were seriously wounded during the incident, which happened at Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a town of 200,000 people 40 miles west of London.
“Motivation for this horrific act is far from certain,” said Neil Basu, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer.
Chief Constable John Campbell of Thames Valley Police said his officers were called to reports of stabbings just before 7 p.m. and found a “horrific” scene when they arrived. The suspect was apprehended within five minutes.
Police have not identified the suspect, although Britain’s national news agency, Press Association, and other media outlets named him as Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan asylum-seeker who lives in Reading.
I’m appalled and sickened that people should lose their lives in this way. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.
Thank you to Thames Valley Police for their bravery in tackling the suspect. pic.twitter.com/BWgyODoIWM
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 21, 2020
A Reading man of that same name and age was sentenced to two months in prison last year for assaulting an emergency worker. In addition, that man was charged last year with assaulting a judge who had sentenced him.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who met security officials, police and senior ministers on Sunday regarding the investigation, said he was “appalled and sickened” by the attack.
“If there are lessons that we need to learn” or legal changes needed in order to prevent such attacks, “then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary,” Johnson said.
Overnight, heavily armed officers entered an apartment about a mile away from the stabbing site, and a loud bang was heard.
The attack came a few hours after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Forbury Gardens, although police do not believe there is a connection.
Following a series of other incidents in recent month, Britain’s official terrorism threat level remains at “substantial.” That is the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.