Donald Trump has criticised the mayor of London, hours after seven people were killed and 48 injured in a terror attack in the centre of the city.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack,” the president wrote on his personal Twitter account, “and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”
Khan commented on the attacks in a statement overnight and in a television interview earlier on Sunday. In the interview, he said there was “no reason to be alarmed” by an increased and armed police presence in the city that day.
In his statement on Saturday night, issued as the London Bridge attack unfolded, Khan said: “Metropolitan police are responding to the horrific terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market.” He added: “My thoughts are with everyone affected, and I’d like to thank the brave men and women of our emergency services who were first on the scene and will be working throughout the night.
“This was a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night,” he said. “I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. There is no justification whatsoever for such barbaric acts.”
In the television interview on Sunday morning, Khan said the UK general election, scheduled for Thursday, should go ahead as planned. He added: “There aren’t words to describe the grief and anger that our city will be facing today. I’m appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would deliberately target innocent Londoners.
“There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists and I am quite clear that we will never let them win.
“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”
After Trump’s tweet, a spokesperson for Khan said: “The mayor is busy working with the police, emergency services and the government to coordinate the response to this horrific and cowardly terrorist attack and provide leadership and reassurance to Londoners and visitors to our city.
“He has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police – including armed officers – on the streets.”
In another tweet, Trump wrote: “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”
He added: “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.”
US political figures also criticised Trump’s tweets. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who is a member of the Senate intelligence committee, told CNN the president’s words “troubled” him. Former vice-president Al Gore told the same network: “I don’t think a major terrorist attack like this is the time to be divisive and to criticise a mayor who’s trying to organise his city’s response.”
In London, acting US ambassador Lewis Lukens issued a pointed statement: “I commend the strong leadership of [Sadiq Khan] as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack.”
Trump was also widely criticised for his first reaction to the news from London, in which he retweeted an unsubstantiated headline from the conservative Drudge Report website and then said: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”
The White House this week asked the supreme court to reinstate its bar on entry from six Muslim-majority countries. The measure has been blocked repeatedly by lower courts.
On Saturday night, Trump subsequently tweeted a message of support.
Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a major European city, has attracted ire from the Trump family before. In March, hours after an attack at Westminster Bridge in which five people died, Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, tweeted: “You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”
Trump Jr was criticised for taking those words out of context: speaking six months before the Westminster attack, Khan had also discussed the necessity of providing strong security for Londoners.