David Cameron has told the public the best way to tackle terrorism, in the wake of the brutal Woolwich attack on Wednesday, is to “stand together” and “go about our normal lives”.
The prime minister urged communities to “carry on” in the face of extremism following the killing of a soldier on Wednesday, and said the country would not be defeated by violent terrorism.
Mr Cameron flew back from France on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra.
We will defeat violent extremism by standing together. David Cameron
“Already a number of things are clear,” he said, speaking outside 10 Downing Street. “First, this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror. We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms.
“Second, this view is shared by every community in our country. This was not just an attack on Britain, and on our British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam, and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country.
“There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
Mr Cameron’s speech drew comment from the Twitter feed purporting to represent the Somalia-based extremist group Al-Shabaab:
What Cameron describes as a â??sickeningâ? attack is what innocent Muslim woman and children are subjected to every day by #British troops
— HSMPress (@HSMPRESS1) May 23, 2013
It is not a â??betrayalâ? of Islam as heâ??d put it but rather a â??portrayalâ? of Islam. Donâ??t expect Muslims to simply turn the other cheek!
— HSMPress (@HSMPRESS1) May 23, 2013
Mr Cameron praised the acts of the police and of members of the community – and singled out the bravery of cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett.
He said: “When told by the attacker that he wanted to start a war in London she replied ‘You’re going to lose. It’s only you versus many’. She spoke for us all.”
He added: “We will defeat violent extremism by standing together, by backing our police and security services, and above all by challenging the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds.”
People across our country, whatever background they are from, will be united in condemning this attack. Nick Clegg
The Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner called for clam in the community as police carried out their investigations.
“I would ask for Londoners help and support for us to continue. Please remain calm. London is at its best when we all come together and now is the time to do that,” he said.
“What is… important today is that we continue to work together, and we are working with our communities. We are here to listen and understand the concerns that this brutal attack will have raised.”
Other political leaders echoed the message that people will unite against such attacks.
Deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said on Tuesday: “People across our country, whatever background they are from, will be united in condemning this attack and we will stand together, as we always do, in our response.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The British people will be horrified by what has happened in Woolwich. They will be united in believing that this terror on our streets cannot be allowed to stand.” He added that the Labour Party would offer its full support to the government to establish the facts of what happened.
Everyone can see that the fault for this lies exclusively, wholly, and entirely in the minds of those who are responsible for this crime, and they are going to be brought to justice. Boris Johnson
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: “I hope and believe that this is an isolated incident and appeal for calm amongst all our communities.”
Mr Johnson (see video, above) said two things were clear from the attacks. “Number one, that those guilty wil be brought speedily to justice,” he said.
“And second, I have absolutely no doubt that Londoners can go about their lives in the normal way today.”
He added: “This is not a question of blaming the religion of Islam, or blaming any aspect of British foreign policy, or what our troops do in operations when they risk their lives for us.
“Everyone can see that the fault for this lies exclusively, wholly, and entirely in the minds of those who are responsible for this crime, and they are going to be brought to justice.”
Mr Cameron also confirmed that the two men arrested under suspicion of carrying out the attack had previously been known to security services.
He said: “The point that the two suspects in this horrific attack were known to the security services has been widely reported. You would not expect me to comment on this when a criminal investigation is ongoing.
“But what I can say is this: as is the normal practice in these sorts of cases, the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be able to review the actions of the police and the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to do the same for the wider agencies.
“But nothing should be done to get in the way of their absolutely vital work.”
#woolwich security source tells me the two featured in a number of investigations in the past 8 years
— simon israel (@simonisrael) May 23, 2013