British Prime Minister David Cameron has described the killing of a British soldier in broad daylight on a London street as an 'attack on Britain' and a 'betrayal of Islam'. The attackers - who said they were taking revenge for the killing of Muslims - are thought to be British citizens of African origin.
Witnesses say a British soldier had just left an army barracks in east London when he was hit by a car. The occupants got out and attacked the victim with meat cleavers and knives.
One attacker spoke to a witness filming with his phone, saying 'The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day by British soldiers."
"[They were] walking around with the weapons and just saying the most random things that anyone could ever say, saying that men are not going near the body, only women, saying 'This is what God would have wanted', and then they was telling people to video record them doing it," recalled witness Joe Tallant as he described what he saw.
Suspects in custody
Police shot both suspects after they charged at officers. Both are in custody in hospital.
Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from a trip to France to chair an emergency meeting. He said many details were still being investigated - but said Britain would respond resolutely.
"This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act," Cameron said.
Both attackers are reported to be British citizens of African origin who had converted to Islam and were known to security services.
One has been named as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo - who was reportedly raised in a devout Christian family.
Security experts said it bears the hallmarks of a so-called 'lone wolf' attack.
"Of course at this point we still don't have a complete picture," noted Raffaello Pantucci, from the Royal United Services Institute. "However, it increasingly looks like we're dealing with an attack of individuals who decided to launch an attack, that it would be suprising if it turned out that there had been outside direction."
The London attack - the first fatal terror incident since the 2005 - comes just a month after the bombings at the Boston marathon in the United States, an attack carried out by radicalized US citizens.
Pantucci said the method of carrying out terrorist attacks is changing.
"In recent years we have seen a growing trend toward these sorts of lone actor or small cell attacks, where we have these individuals who, in some cases, may actually prove to have connections abroad," he noted. "But there is no evidence necessarily that there was any direction from abroad."
One of the attackers is in a serious condition. Investigators are waiting to question the two men under armed guard in hospital.
A police officer carries an evidence bag containing a knife near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, May 23, 2013.
Police officers search near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, May 23, 2013.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, speaks to police officers near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, May 23, 2013.
A wooden cross and a poppy, left as a tribute, are seen near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, May 23, 2013.
Tributes are seen near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, southeast London, May 23, 2013.
A police forensics officer investigates a crime scene where one man was killed in Woolwich, London, May 22, 2013.