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London pays tribute to victims and heroes of attack

UK PM continues to blame Labour Party laws for allowing the attack

LONDON : London Bridge reopened to cars and pedestrians yesterday, three days after a man previously convicted of terrorism offences stabbed two people to death and injured three others before being shot dead by police.

Political leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn - who have traded blame for the security failures that allowed the attack - attended a vigil at Guildhall Yard in London to remember the victims and honour members of the emergency services and bystanders who fought the man with fists, fire extinguishers and even a narwhal tusk.

The dignitaries, city officials and members of the public observed two minutes of silence in honour of former University of Cambridge students Ms Saskia Jones, 23, and Mr Jack Merritt, 25.

They were fatally stabbed by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during an event designed to connect graduate students with prisoners.

Both victims worked for the Cambridge-based prisoner rehabilitation program Learning Together.

Two of the three injured people remained in hospital yesterday. The third was discharged.

The attacker was attending the event at Fishmongers' Hall, beside the bridge, and had returned for the afternoon session when he started stabbing people.

He was pursued onto London Bridge and restrained by staff from the venue and others attending the conference. Police opened fire after he flashed what looked like a suicide vest. It was a fake device.

Mr Toby Williamson, chief executive of Fishmongers' Hall, paid tribute to staff at the venue who tried to help the injured and fight off the attacker.

Mr Williamson said one staffer, whom he identified as Lukasz, pulled a 1.5m narwhal tusk from the wall and charged at Khan, allowing others to escape.

Mr Williamson told the BBC that Lukasz suffered cuts in a minute of "one-on-one straight combat" with the attacker.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told yesterday's vigil that, in the face of tragedy, people should "take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and emergency services who ran toward danger, risking their lives to help people they didn't even know."

The attack has pushed security to the top of the agenda in campaigning for the UK's Dec 12 election.

Mr Johnson, a Conservative, has blamed legal changes made by a previous Labour government for the fact that Khan was freed from prison a year ago after serving half of a 16-year sentence for terrorist offences, without parole officers assessing whether he still posed a risk.

That rule was changed in 2012 by a Conservative-led government, and Mr Johnson has vowed to end the early release of violent offenders altogether.

The family of Mr Merritt cautioned against knee-jerk responses.

They said he "would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary." - AP

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