A Recent History Of Terror Attacks In The U.K.

The past 12 years in England have not been entirely free of bloodshed.

22/03/2017 21:33 SAST | Updated 04/06/2017 04:31 SAST

Police are investigating a pair of violent incidents that unfolded in London on Saturday night as possible terror attacks. A white van traveling at a high speed struck as many as six pedestrians on the London Bridge, and two people were stabbed at a restaurant in Borough Market, less than a half a mile away.

Officials confirmed that there was more than one fatality, and that at least 20 victims were sent to hospitals around the city. 

The violence in London comes about two weeks after a powerful explosion detonated in Manchester, killing at least 22 people outside of an arena after an Ariana Grande concert.

Although major attacks have hit European nations such as France, Belgium and Germany in recent years, the United Kingdom had until this year avoided another terrorism event on that scale. But England has not been completely immune to extremism, and has reported foiling more than a dozen plots since 2013. There have also been a number of isolated killings and attacks.

This is a timeline of some of the major extremist attacks to hit Britain in the last 12 years:

2017 ― Explosion After Ariana Grande’s Manchester Concert

A suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device near the Manchester Arena on May 22, moments after pop singer Grande wrapped up a concert at the venue. At least 22 people, including children, were killed, and 59 were injured in the explosion. Most victims were leaving the concert hall when the attack took place.

Manchester police identified the attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British national whose parents came to the U.S. from Libya. Abedi was killed when the bomb was detonated. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released the following day.

The incident, which targeted young concertgoers and their families, is the deadliest on British soil since a series of suicide bombs struck London in 2005.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Messages are left amongst tributes by members of the public in St. Ann's Square on Tuesday May 23, 2017 in Manchester.

2017 ― Westminster Bridge Attack

On March 22, a car attack on London’s Westminster Bridge and stabbing at Parliament killed five people and left dozens injured. Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old man from South East England, carried out the attack. Masood was once a peripheral figure in an investigation related to violent extremism, but at the time of the attack was unknown to authorities. He was shot and killed outside Parliament during the attack.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, but British authorities later found no evidence that Masood had any direct association with the militant group.


2016 ― The Murder Of Jo Cox

Far-right extremist Thomas Mair fatally shot and stabbed Member of Parliament Jo Cox on June 16 last year, in the village of Birstall. The attack came during the height of tensions ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum, and Mair was heard shouting “Britain first” and similar nativist slogans before the murder. Cox was pro-immigration and a supporter of the Remain movement for the U.K. to stay in the European Union.

Police found Nazi memorabilia after raiding Mair’s house, and it was later revealed that he had online ties to far-right and white supremacist groups. Mair, 53, was sentenced to life in prison for the killing, after doctors found no evidence that his mental health was poor enough to relieve him of responsibility.

Toby Melville / Reuters
A police officer stands on duty outside Leytonstone Underground station in east London, Dec. 7, 2015.

2015 ― Leytonstone Station Stabbing

An attacker stabbed multiple people in the Leytonstone Underground station in East London on Dec. 6, 2015. Muhiddin Mire, a 30-year-old taxi driver diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, randomly targeted people in the station in what he later claimed was revenge for Western airstrikes in Syria.  

In footage of the attack, commuters can be heard screaming at Mire to put down the knife. One man calls out “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv.” People on Twitter later took up the phrase as a way to emphasize that Mire’s actions didn’t represent Islam.

Mire was convicted of attempted murder and multiple counts of attempted wounding. Two doctors who reviewed the case disagreed on whether his mental illness, as opposed to his extremist beliefs, could be considered the cause of the attack.

2013 ― Murder of Lee Rigby

Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old British soldier, was killed in a terror attack in Woolwich, southeast of London, on May 22, 2013. Two assailants rammed Rigby with a car before stabbing and attempting to behead him on a street outside his Army barracks. Horrified bystanders witnessed the attack, which was also caught on video.

The killers were two British Islamist extremists in their 20s who said they killed Rigby as an act of war. Both men were arrested at the scene and later convicted of murder. The violence of the attack shocked Britain, and prompted numerous memorials for Rigby.

2007 ― Glasgow Airport Attack

In June 2007, two men attempted a car bomb attack at Glasgow Airport in Scotland. Bilal Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed drove a jeep into the terminal building at the airport, but the gas canisters in the vehicle failed to ignite.

Ahmed doused himself in gasoline and self-immolated during the attack. He died a month later from severe burns. Abdulla was arrested and found guilty on charges including conspiracy to commit murder. 

The two men, both in their 20s, held extremist views and Abdulla claimed to conduct the attack in response to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which the U.S. and U.K. led.

Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Debris is seen around a destroyed number 30 double-decker bus after it was struck by a bomb on July 7, 2005.

2005 ― The 7/7 London Bombings

On July 7, 2005, a series of suicide bombings in London killed 52 people and wounded more than 770. The attackers targeted the city’s transport system, detonating bombs hidden in their backpacks on three London Underground trains just before 9 a.m. Around an hour later, a fourth attacker blew himself up on a double-decker bus.

The incident was one of the worst terror attacks in British history. Four British attackers linked to al Qaeda were found to have carried out the bombings, and all of them died in the blasts. On July 21, a similar plot failed when unexploded bombs were found on three subway trains and a bus. 

This post was originally published in March and has been updated to include information on the Manchester Arena attack, the Glasgow Airport attack and the London Bridge and Borough Market attacks.