A Somali-Norwegian teenager went on a knife rampage through London’s Russell Square, a hub for students and tourists, fatally stabbing an American woman and wounding five other people.
Police said Thursday that it wasn’t terrorism — but in a city on edge after a summer of attacks elsewhere in Europe, both authorities and London residents initially responded as if it were. Police flooded the streets with extra officers and mobilized counterterror detectives before saying the shocking burst of violence appeared to have been “triggered by mental-health issues.”
Police officers used a stun gun to subdue the 19-year-old suspect at the scene of the stabbings late Wednesday, among busy streets lined with hotels close to the British Museum.
“Terror in London” ran the headline in the Mail Online, one of several media outlets to speculate that the attack was an act of terrorism. Police initially said terrorism was “one line of inquiry being explored.”
But hours later Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said “we have found no evidence of radicalization or anything that would suggest the man in our custody was in any way motivated by terrorism.”
He said detectives from the force’s murder and terrorism squads had interviewed the suspect, his family and witnesses and searched properties.
“We believe this was a spontaneous attack and the victims were selected at random,” Rowley said.