A knife attack which saw two rail passengers and a policeman stabbed by a man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ is being treated as terrorism, Manchester police have said.
Anti-terror officers raided the 25-year-old suspect’s home in the Cheetham Hill area of the city today as they confirmed two of the victims will be in hospital ‘for some time’.
Neighbours of the property raided say they believe it is home to a Somali couple and four of their five children, who all moved to the UK from the Netherlands around 12 years ago.
Footage of the aftermath of the ‘frenzied’ attack at Manchester’s Victoria Station last night shows a man being pinned down by five police officers, with blood stains on the pavement.
Another video shows the suspect shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning ‘God is most great’ in Arabic, as he was put in the back of a police van. He was also heard screaming: ‘Long live the Caliphate’, a reference to the enclave carved out by terror group ISIS.
A witness said he also shouted: ‘As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of s*** is going to keep happening.’
Nousha Babaakachel, a neighbor of the home raided, said a Somali family live at the address.
She said the couple have two sons are at university, one working at Manchester Airport and the youngest son is back in Somalia. They also have a daughter.
Both parents attend a local mosque, Ms Babaakachel said.
Witnesses to last night’s events have praised the British Transport Police officer who was stabbed in the shoulder after ‘bravely and immediately’ confronting the attacker during a routine patrol.
BTP Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said: ‘I am incredibly proud of the four officers who were immediately on scene last night, detaining a man who was wielding a knife.
‘They were fearless, running towards danger and preventing further harm coming to passengers.
‘Unfortunately however, one of our police officers suffered a stab injury to their shoulder and we’re all relieved that this is not more serious. It is good news that he has now been discharged from hospital, we are all wishing him a speedy recovery.’
Prime Minister Theresa May said: ‘My thoughts are with those who were injured in the suspected terrorist attack in Manchester last night. I thank the emergency services for their courageous response.’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted on Tuesday evening: ‘Just had an update from @TerrorismPolice about last night’s £ManchesterVictoria incident and their investigation. Can’t praise police and emergency services response enough – swift and brave.’
A witness told the Daily Mirror: ‘As soon as I heard the screaming they were running to the scene to protect everyone. They are heroes.’
Police said a 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and remains in custody as his home is searched. They could not confirm whether he had previously been flagged to them.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said a couple in their 50s suffered multiple stab wounds in the ‘frenzied’ and ‘random’ attack around 9pm, during which the attacker wielded two knives.
Mr Jackson said: ‘We believe we have identified the man in custody. In fact we are currently searching an address in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester.
‘We know the attacker arrived at the location and soon after he attacked two people, a man and a woman, who have suffered very serious injuries. Whilst serious, thankfully these are not life threatening.’
The station where the attack unfolded is next to Manchester Arena, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people on May 22. The area was reopened after a cordon was lifted this morning.
Witness Sam Clack, who came within touching distance of the attacker, said he heard the man shout ‘Allah’ as he launched the attack.
Mr Clack, a BBC producer, was on a platform at Manchester Victoria railway station waiting for a tram home when he witnessed the attack.
The 38-year-old said: ‘I just heard this most blood-curdling scream and looked down the platform. What it looked like was a guy in his 60s with a woman of similar age and another guy all dressed in black.
‘It looked like they were having a fight but she was screaming in this blood curdling way. I saw police in high-vis come towards him.
‘He came towards me. I looked down and saw he had a kitchen knife with a black handle with a good, 12-inch blade. It was just fear, pure fear.’
Mr Clack said police officers used a Taser and pepper spray before ‘six or seven’ officers jumped on the man and held him down.
He said he heard the suspect saying: ‘As long as you keep bombing other countries this sort of s*** is going to keep happening.’
Mr Clack said it looked like both the man in his 60s and the woman with him had been stabbed, but both were conscious and were walked to a waiting ambulance.
He said he also heard the knifeman shouting ‘Allah’ before and during the attack.
Police appeared ‘within seconds’ and the knifeman backed down the platform towards where Mr Clack was standing alone.
Mr Clack described how he feared the man would attack him.
‘I just had a feeling in the pit of my stomach,’ he said. ‘Here’s a man who’s very agitated, angry, skittish. It appears he had already attacked someone. He had police coming towards him and he’s coming towards me.
‘I thought what I need to do is jump onto the tracks because next thing he’s going to do is turn around and stab me. He’s looking about, side to side and jumpy.
‘At one point one of the police officers fired the Taser but it missed him. Then he got pepper sprayed and tasered and he want to the ground.
‘The guy, his exact words were, he said: ‘As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of s*** is going to keep happening’.’
He added: ‘It was scary. I have never been so scared in my life. Someone with a knife six to eight feet away, he had just stabbed someone. It was the proximity.
‘It just highlights the fact that it can happen anywhere. It’s just a guy with a knife on a platform. It can happen anywhere. Anyone can do it.’
A police sergeant in his 30s injured in the attack has been released from hospital, while the other two victims are currently receiving treatment.
A British Transport Police spokesperson said the woman has injuries to her face and abdomen and the man has injuries to his abdomen, while a BTP officer has a stab wound in his shoulder – all of which are described as ‘serious but not life-threatening’.
In footage posted on Snapchat reportedly showing the suspect being put in the back of a police van, he can be heard shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he is led away by officers.
Another eyewitness, named only as Rebecca, told Mirror Online: ‘I heard the most bloodcurdling scream I’ve ever heard and turned to see everyone running towards me.
‘Some guy told me to run. ‘Keep running’ was all he kept saying – ‘just keep running’. I jumped off the tram track and started to run down the tram lines and hid behind some concrete slabs under one of the arches.
The Metrolink has been cordoned off and the station is currently shut down while police investigate the scene.
The attack took place just a few hundred meters away from the Manchester Arena, scene of the deadly bombing in May 2017 which killed 23 revellers at an Ariana Grande concert.
British Transport Police said in a statement: ‘Officers are attending Manchester Victoria station following reports of a man wielding a knife. We received the call at 8.52pm on Monday, 31 December.
‘A man has been detained and two members of the public, a man and a woman have been taken to hospital with knife injuries.
‘A BTP officer is also receiving treatment for a stab wound to the shoulder. British Transport Police remain at the scene along with colleagues from Greater Manchester Police and the North West Ambulance Service.’
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