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Strabane native recalls ‘sheer panic’ as terror descends on London

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A FORMER Strabane man who had been socialising in a bar in the area of London targeted in a terror attack on Saturday night has spoken of the "extreme fear" he felt when he realised that armed terrorists were close-by.

"It was the most extreme fear and panic that I've ever felt in my life", Shaun Harkin told this newspaper.

Mr Harkin is originally from the town, but has spent much of his adult life living and working in the city.

He and his wife, Evelyn, had been enjoying a night out with friends when three terrorists wearing fake suicide bomb vests drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in the area around Borough Market.

The attackers were shot dead by police who had arrived on the scene within minutes after killing seven people and injuring 48.

Yesterday (Tuesday), NHS England said 32 of the victims remained in hospital, with 15 described as being in a critical condition.

Shaun, who works as a finance analyst in the city, described the moment he and other revellers ran for their lives.

"It's really quite difficult to find the words to describe the sheer panic. I didn't know what was happening," he said. "We had seen that there was a commotion in the street but initially quite a few of us thought that a fight had broken out. As more and more people ran past our location, we very quickly realised that it was something more sinister.

"A young man ran past shouting 'run, just run' with another saying 'they have knives'. I took my wife's hand and we just ran out onto the street and ran for our lives.

"I didn't know how close they (the terrorists) were or where exactly we were running to but we just kept running. Moments later I could hear the police sirens and what sounded like gunshots. There were armed police everywhere, it was a very frightening experience.

"It was only later that night when we managed to get back home and switched on the TV that we realised the full extent of what had happened and how close we actually were to where the terrorists had been shot (by police)."

He added: "London is an amazing city filled with amazing people. Of course this won't stop of us going about our daily lives. You can't give into terror - that's what they want."

The attack has been claimed by the so-called Islamic State group and comes less than two weeks after a suicide bomber targeted a pop concert in Manchester claiming the lives of 22 people and injuring many more.

Meanwhile, at Derry City and Strabane District Council's annual meeting on Monday night, a minute's silence was observed in memory of the victims of the attack.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the new Mayor, Maolíosa McHugh, observed a minute's silence outside the Guildhall in line with a national vigil. He has also opened a book of condolence which can be signed in person at the Guildhall or online.

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