World watches as London 'stabbed in heart'

The brazen attack outside parliament in central London has made headlines across the world. Many newspapers have questioned how such an attack was possible in such a fortified part of the city.

Although the attacker has not yet been identified, many European papers were quick to blame Islamist extremism, particularly in France and Belgium, who have suffered similar recent attacks. Russian state media offered condolences to the UK, but could not resist the urge to score political points.


France’s Le Figaro runs the headline: “Islamist terrorism strikes the heart of London”. France’s Le Monde says: “The beating heart of the oldest democracy in the world. This is the spot chosen by the driver of the grey i40, a man entirely clad in black and sporting a beard, who drove into the crowd. Nothing could be more emblematic.”

Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper leads with: “Islamist motive is most likely in London”

But amid the misery, the London correspondent for Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reported a sense of casual defiance in the capital, with: “Full pubs, young and fearless tourists in a good mood. Although the London government zone is still a prohibited area, busy life continues”.

Romanian newspapers say two of its citizens were victims of the attack, including the woman who fell into the River Thames. The Hotnews website says the pair were a couple planning to get married.


Both Ukraine’s Segodnya and Russia’s NTV said London had been “stabbed in the heart”.

The Russian words for London and “PrayForLondon” are trending on Twitter but even words of condolence were used as a springboard for political point scoring on state-run Rossiya 24. After Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the channel that “Our hearts are with the people of Britain and we share their pain”, a Rossiya 24 presenter replied “Unfortunately, when something happens with us, we do not often hear such words addressed to us”.

Russian MPs interviewed on state media immediately after the attack suggested the UK was suffering the consequences of not supporting military intervention in Syria.

The line was seemingly echoed by former FSB agent Sergei Goncharov in Izvestia newspaper: ‘What has happened in the UK is an act of intimidation… Unless all countries that fight against terrorists unite, terrorist attacks in the EU will continue.”

Middle East

The attack also led TV bulletins in the Middle East, where some gave prominence to a video of a veiled, apparently Muslim woman, running to safety.

The Iraqi foreign ministry called for the “elimination of ideologies of terrorism and its sources of support and funding” while the Gulf Cooperation Council called it a “horrendous crime”. The government of Saudi Arabia urged its nationals living in the UK to avoid large gatherings.

During an evening talk show in Egypt, presenter Ahmed Moussa said: “The one who raises the lion ends up being eaten by it… Britain embraces the lion,” a reference to the UK’s perceived tolerance of extremist individuals.

However, his point of view was not shared by others in Egypt. Another presenter took the time to remonstrate with Egyptians using the hashtag “BritainIsUnsafe” to poke fun at London. “When you are against terrorism, you should be against terrorism in every part of the world. There should be no gloating against other people,” he said.

Iranian state rolling news channel and radio began morning bulletins with extended reports on the attack. Press TV said: “This momentous event will be sure to change the future of British counterterrorism strategies.”

An opinion piece in Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom said: “This is no longer a war against people; this is a war on a spirit… Britain has been preoccupied with Brexit in recent months. It can run away from Brussels and the euro, but if there is one thing it is impossible to run away from it is terror, which is threatening the whole continent.”

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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