LONDON - Two assailants hacked a man to death on a busy London street Wednesday before delivering a rant about Islam to bystanders, leading Prime Minister David Cameron to cut short a diplomatic trip in Paris to deal with what he described as a likely terrorist attack.
Both men - who made no attempt to escape and shouted statements at bystanders while they waited for authorities to arrive - were wounded by police while being taken into custody. At least one was in serious condition, and both were under armed guard.
British media reported that the victim was a British soldier wearing the shirt of the Help for Heroes charity, which aids British service members injured in combat. Neither Scotland Yard nor government officials immediately confirmed those reports, but Nick Raynsford, a legislator from the Woolwich neighborhood where the attack occurred, told the BBC that the victim was a soldier serving at a nearby army barracks.
Britain immediately moved Wednesday night to increase security around various barracks. Meantime, shocked Britons were gripped by snippets of videos filmed by bystanders. One amateur video obtained by London's ITV television showed one of the assailants - a man holding two bloody blades and whose hands appear to be covered with blood - shouting in English.
"I apologize that women had to witness this today," he says, "but in our land women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don't care about you."
Speaking in Paris, Prime Minister David Cameron said there were "strong indications that this is a terrorist incident." He was poised to chair a meeting of Britain's national security committee Thursday morning.
British authorities were scrambling to ascertain whether the men had acted alone, whether they were homegrown or were potentially associated with overseas Islamic extremist groups.
The men encouraged passengers on a bus to photograph them and film them with phone cameras, leading to a number of chilling videos and still photos posted online.
"The fact that it was carried out in the middle of the day in a public street is very concerning," said Valentina Soria, a terrorism expert at IHS Jane's Consulting. ". . . The fact that they wanted to be filmed indicates that they were seeking public attention. That is the aim in itself of the attack."