British counter terrorism law enforcement officials declared the murder of British lawmaker Sir David Amess an act of terrorism on Friday night, hours after he was stabbed to death.
“Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon formally declared the incident as terrorism,” The Metropolitan Police said in a statement. “The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.”
Police arrested a 25-year-old British man, who is believed to be of Somali heritage, on suspicion of murder.
“As part of the investigation, officers are currently carrying out searches at two addresses in the London area and these are ongoing,” the statement added. “It is believed that he acted alone, and we are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident at this time.”
The New York Times reported:
Amess, 69, was a long-serving member of the House of Commons known for his soft-spoken manner and hard-line views on Brexit. He was engaged in the everyday political routine of meeting with constituents when the attack occurred in Leigh-on-Sea, on the mouth of the Thames, about 40 miles east of London. …
The death of Mr. Amess, known as much for his campaigning on behalf of animal welfare as for his criticism of the European Union, evoked a similar attack in 2016, days before Britons voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Jo Cox, a Labour lawmaker who opposed Brexit, was killed when a right-wing extremist targeted her outside a meeting with constituents.
In 2010, another Labour lawmaker, Stephen Timms, was stabbed twice in the abdomen by an Islamist extremist, but survived.
A visibly shaken British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered remarks immediately following Amess’ death, saying that the U.K. lost “a fine public servant and a much loved friend and colleague.”
“Well, I think all our hearts are full of shock and sadness today at the loss of Sir David Amess MP, who was killed in his constituency surgery in a church after almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom,” Johnson said in a statement. “And 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.”
“And he also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country,” Johnson continued. “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future, and we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much loved friend and colleague, and our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children, and his family.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.