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Fatal stabbing of British lawmaker declared as a terrorist incident

The fatal stabbing of British Member of Parliament David Amess was a terrorist incident, police said on Saturday (Oct 16), at they investigated the second killing of a UK politician while meeting voters since 2016.

The Metropolitan Police said its preliminary findings had revealed "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism".

Amess, a 69-year-old pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker, was stabbed to death inside a church on Friday while holding a fortnightly consultation with his constituents in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex, east of London.

Police arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene on suspicion of murder and recovered a knife. 

"As part of the investigation, officers are currently carrying out searches at two addresses in the London area and these are ongoing," the police said, adding that it is believed that the suspect acted alone.

Essex police said officers had responded "within minutes" to reports of the stabbing shortly after 12.05pm local time (7.05pm Singapore time) and arrived to find Amess had "suffered multiple injuries".

Paramedics fought to save his life on the floor of the church - where a sign says "All are welcome here: Where old friends meet and strangers feel at home" - but in vain.

"This was a difficult incident, but our officers and paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service worked extremely hard to save Sir David," Harrington said.

"Tragically he died at the scene."

A father of five who was first elected to parliament in 1983, Amess was memorialised with an impromptu evening mass while tributes poured in from across the political spectrum and around the world.

Multiple UK media outlets, citing sources, reported that the suspect was believed to be a British national with Somali heritage.

"The investigation is in its very early stages and is being led by officers from the specialist counter-terrorism command," Ben-Julian Harrington, Essex police's chief constable, told reporters.

"We made it clear at the time of the incident that we did not believe there was any immediate further threat to anyone else in the area," Harrington said.

"MUCH-LOVED"

The killing has sent shockwaves around Britain.

Flags were lowered to half-mast in Westminster as tributes were paid to Amess, whose death came five years after the murder of Labour party MP Jo Cox by a far-right extremist.

In a book last year called Ayes & Ears: A Survivor's Guide to Westminster, Amess noted that Cox's death had prompted new security guidance to lawmakers that threatened to limit their access to constituents.

"This sort of thing just was not supposed to happen in the UK," he wrote about Cox's killing.

"These increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians."

Police officers are seen at the scene where MP David Amess was stabbed during constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Britain on Oct 15, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)
Police officers at the scene outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea on Oct 15, 2021. (Photo: AP/Alberto Pezzali)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Amess was "a much-loved friend and colleague" and "a fine public servant".

"The reason I think people are so shocked and saddened is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics."

Dozens of local community members honoured their elected representative in a mass held at another Leigh-on-Sea church near the crime scene on Friday evening.

"He died doing the thing he loved - meeting his constituents," said Jeff Woolnough, a priest who led the liturgy.

Bob Hazel, secretary of a local residents' group, said Amess regularly chatted with commuters on the train from London.

"He wouldn't be stuck behind a book or a newspaper, he would be talking to people and he was that sort of person. He was really approachable and he's going to be very, very much missed," Hazel told Reuters.

"ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY"

All Britain's living former prime ministers also paid tribute to Amess, including Theresa May, who called it "a tragic day for our democracy".

"Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties."

Prince William and his wife Kate said the couple were "shocked and saddened" and noted Amess had "dedicated 40 years of his life to serving his community".

Condolences also came from the United States, Canada and Spain.

"An attack on elected officials is an attack on democracy," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted.

Tributes poured in from across the political spectrum for David Amess. (Photo: AFP)
The Union flags above Downing Street have been lowered to half mast to honor British Conservative lawmaker David Amess, in London on Oct 15, 2021/ (Photo: AP/Aaron Chown)

Britain's House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Amess had "built a reputation for kindness and generosity" during his long parliamentary career.

"In the coming days, we will need to discuss and examine MPs' security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David's family, friends and colleagues," Hoyle added.

Interior Minister Priti Patel's spokesman said she had chaired a meeting of police, security and intelligence agencies and "asked all police forces to review security arrangements for MPs with immediate effect".

"COWARDLY AS IT GETS"

Amess was first elected during Margaret Thatcher's tenure and was known for his advocacy of animal welfare and pro-life issues.

He had advertised Friday's "surgery" - an open meeting for constituents - at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

While public attacks on British MPs are not common, lawmakers have been the victims of stabbings in the past.

In January 2000, Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was wounded and his assistant killed by a man wielding a ceremonial sword at a surgery.

Pro-EU MP Cox was killed in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, while another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, was stabbed multiple times during an event in 2010 but recovered and is still a lawmaker.

Timms said he was "appalled" at this latest attack.

Cox's widower Brendan said it was "as cowardly as it gets".

Source: AGENCIES/zl

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