A transport policeman was one of the first to intervene as three assailants armed with long ceramic knives went on a stabbing frenzy after driving their transit van at people near London Bridge.
Reacting to screams, he rushed to confront the attackers, who stabbed him several times, slicing and lunging at his head, legs and arms, leaving him temporarily blind and crippled.
A year on from the terror attack in the Borough district of London, Wayne Marques is still recovering and has only recently been able to walk independently. In a video released this week he said he hopes to return to work next month, but admitted he has some rehabilitation to go. He concedes his family has concerns about his desire to work but says: “It’s a job that I enjoy. It’s who I am, to be honest.”
On the first anniversary of the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead and 48 others injured, tales of heroism and loss were shared Sunday in newspaper articles, broadcast reports and at a memorial service to honor the victims of a stabbing rampage carried out by three young men in the name of jihad.
The words London United were projected onto the bridge Sunday as British Prime Minister Theresa May noted that among the eight people killed, seven were foreign nationals, “a tragic reminder that the threat from terrorism transcends borders and impacts us all,” she said.
In a statement the British leader added: “My message to those who target our way of life or try to divide us is clear: Our resolve to stand firm and overcome this threat together has never been stronger.”
As Londoners marked the anniversary of the attack, mourning the dead and recalling acts of bravery like the intervention of PC Marques, senior counter-terror officers warned resolve will indeed be needed. The country, they said, is still facing a “very significant security threat,” and they revealed Britain’s security agencies have thwarted roughly a terror plot every month the past year.
They said Britain can’t let its guard down and urged “all members of the public to remain vigilant.”
“The police and security services are working extremely hard, foiling and disrupting terrorist attacks all the time,” Dean Haydon, deputy assistant commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police, told Britain’s Sky News.
Britain’s Interior Minister Sajid Javid is to unveil Monday new security measures including the hiring of an extra 1,000 intelligence officers to help keep suspected extremists under better surveillance. His officials say Britain’s police and security agencies are running at any one time more than 500 live operations focusing on 3,000 “subjects of interest.”
Under Javid’s proposals, British jihadists will be monitored more closely and given longer prison sentences on conviction. Technology companies will be required to do considerably more to tackle extremist content posted on their social-media sites. The package of measures includes plans to fast track extremists to prison even before they have finalized attacks plans.
The proposals stem from a yearlong review of Britain’s counterterror strategy, which found security lapses and a failure to join up intelligence data.
The suicide bombing at the Manchester arena last year, which left 22 people dead, could have been averted the review concluded, if two pieces of crucial information about the bomber, Salman Abedi, had been linked. The strategy focuses on improving data sharing and on the need to spot the importance of suspected militants who may have been overlooked or have become re-radicalized after monitoring of them has ended.
The counterterror strategy to be published Monday concludes: “We expect the threat from Islamist terrorism to remain at its current, heightened level for at least the next two years, and that it may increase.”
Other terror groups
But it isn’t only Islamic extremism worrying Britain’s counterterror officers. The strategy also warns “the threat from extreme right-wing terrorism is growing.”
For the foreseeable future, though, counterterror analysts say that despite the defeat of the Islamic State group on the battlefield and the dismantling of its self-proclaimed state in Syria and Iraq, Islamist extremists remain the biggest threat to Britain and other European states.
Islamic State’s surviving leaders are desperate to be seen as a major force, say analysts, and continue to encourage and instruct followers to mount attacks in the West, like the recent attack by a “lone wolf” militant in the Belgian city of Liege that left three dead, including two female police officers.