In Depth

Westminster attack: Police and public praised for standing up to terror

Newspapers hail 'fast' response from emergency services and the 'impressive presence of mind' from passers-by

Yesterday's terror attack on Westminster Bridge and in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament was "the attack that security chiefs here in the UK have long been preparing for", says the BBC.

However, says The Independent, the sense of inevitability did not make the assault on "the bricks and mortar of the heart of British democracy" any less shocking.

Nevertheless, for many commentators, the defining image of the attack was not the senseless violence, but the response from police, emergency services and passers-by, who behaved with "impressive presence of mind" in the face of the carnage, says The Guardian's editorial.

The paper also praises Tobias Ellwood, the Tory MP dubbed a hero for trying to save fatally injured police officer Keith Palmer, and the emergency services. "The awful choreography of the response to terror was fast and well-rehearsed," it says.

The Spectator's James Forsyth praises the UK's strict gun laws, saying the method of attack – a car and a knife – is a testament to the fact that those "who would take as many lives as they could, have not obtained the weaponry that would enable them to kill dozens and dozens of people in minutes".

The Daily Telegraph warns the UK must not allow itself to be horrified into paralysis. It adds that it is the nation's duty to "deny the attackers the disproportionate reaction they seek".

That includes scapegoating Britain's Muslim communities, writes David Aaronovitch in The Times. Terrorism has been part of London life since the 1970s, he says, but the development of an entire industry fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment is a new and troubling phenomenon.

"There were no Tommy Robinsons getting their opportunist backsides down to the site of an atrocity to exploit it for their anti-Irish campaign" when IRA bombs tore through London, he writes, nor "Aaron Banks-funded 'news' websites to try, however slyly, to pin it all on Dublin and migrant navvies".

Meanwhile, Jason Burke, Guardian correspondent and an expert on Islamist extremism, says the crude nature of the attack suggests the terror network in Britain is limited compared with those behind attacks in Paris and Belgium.

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