LONDON: Crowds gathered by London's beloved Tower Bridge on Monday -- many Muslims among them -- to grieve for the victims of the city's second militant attack in three months.
Under grey skies on a late spring day, mourners held up signs such as "Love for all, hatred for none" and "N Ireland supports London," as the British flag flew at half-mast on the bridge, a monument of national endurance.
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"There's nothing better to do than come here and pay respect to such an awful situation, you know, just to come out and be with everybody in a time where everybody needs to be together," said Matthew Chamberlain, 21, from south London. "It just felt like the right thing to do."
Sniffer dogs roamed the area before the brief vigil, and police, armed and unarmed, maintained a high-profile presence. Muslim groups were prominent among the several hundred mourners, including a group of young men wearing blue T-shirts reading: "I am a Muslim. Ask me anything?"
A woman who gave her first name as Jemana, from a mosque in Northolt, north London, was among a group of colourfully-dressed Muslim men and women carrying flowers.
"We've decided to come from our mosque as a community, to say that none of this that has happened resonates with what we understand as Islam, and that we are very sorry for what has happened," she said. "We're together, we're all Londoners, we're all British."
Seven people were killed on Saturday when three men aboard a white van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before slashing and stabbing people at nearby Borough Market, a warren of bars and restaurants. Forty-eight people were injured, 18 of whom remained in a critical condition on Monday.
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In a brief speech at the vigil, London Mayor Sadiq Khan seemed to speak for many as he voiced his sorrow and anger. "London stands in defiance," said Khan.
To applause and cheers, Khan described himself as "a proud and patriotic British Muslim" and coldly slapped down those who invoked Islam to justify acts of murder.
"You do not commit these disgusting acts in my name," he said. "To the sick and evil extremists who commit these hideous crimes, we will defeat you. You will not win."
Khan’s speech in full:
“We stand together tonight to honour the memories of the innocent lives lost and people injured in the barbaric attack in our city on Saturday night. London stands in defiance against this cowardly attack on our city, our people, our values and our way of life.
“As the mayor of London, I want to send a clear message to the sick and evil extremists who commit these hideous crimes. We will defeat you. You will not win.
“And as a proud a patriotic British Muslim I say this: You do not commit these disgusting acts in my name.”
“Your perverse ideology has nothing to do with the true values of Islam. You will never succeed in dividing our city. Today, we mourn the loss of innocent lives, Londoners and people from around the world. We send our love to the victims’ families and all those who were injured. We thank our courageous emergency services and the brave Londoners who risked their lives to care for others. You are the best of us.
“Our city is filled with great sorrow and anger tonight but also great resolve and determination because our unity and love for one another will always be stronger than the hate of the extremists.
“This is our city. These are our values and this is our way of life. London will never be broken by terrorism we will step up the fight against extremism and we will defeat the terrorists.”
Less than half a mile (one kilometre) away, people stopped to look at dozens of bunches of flowers left at the southern end of London Bridge, which was cordoned off by police vehicles.
"Like a phoenix London will rise more beautiful and stronger. Hate will not win. Forever in our memories," read a note written on Metropolitan Police Service memo paper, attached to a bouquet.
Another, written by the "Boro Bistro family," said in French: "Alex, I hope that the place where you are now will be even more beautiful and peaceful than the desert of Jordan. With all my love. Rest in peace." A Frenchman killed in the attack worked at the bistro in Borough Market, French media reported.
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Georgina Lewis, 33, was accompanied by her two-year-old girl as she laid flowers. "It's a way to say how sorry I am for the people that died, and also to make a promise to do whatever I can for my daughter so that these kind of things don't happen again," she said, tears flowing, as she looked at her child.
Saturday's attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, followed a similar car-and-knife assault by a lone attacker on Westminster Bridge on March 22 that killed five people and injured more than 50.
In the northwestern English city of Manchester, 22 people died in a suicide bombing on May 22, and 116 were injured.
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