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ISIS Claims Responsibility For Attack In London That Killed 7

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a bottom line for her country after last weekend's attack on London.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are.

INSKEEP: Britain has faced three significant attacks in recent months - first near the British Parliament then against a concert in Manchester and now on London Bridge. Prime Minister May contends that each attack is inspiring more attacks. And her challenge now is to interrupt that kind of inspiration or recruitment while still governing a free society. NPR's Frank Langfitt is in London. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. If things cannot continue as they are, what does May plan to change?

LANGFITT: Well, she hasn't given us details yet, and we may hear more today on that. But what she's talking about is changing minds away from extremism and back towards liberal British values. She's also talking about removing safe spaces on the Internet, where people can do recruiting, which, as we know, is a big way that extremist ideology is spread. She's been talking about international agreements with other democratic governments to crack down on online extremism. And her line yesterday from her speech was, enough is enough.

INSKEEP: Well, it's really interesting, though, the contradiction there because you talk about liberal British values. We're talking about freedom, which can include free speech, but you have authorities thinking about whether they need to find some way to crack down on free speech they consider dangerous.

LANGFITT: It is. There's certainly a dilemma that is faced in many countries right now, especially with the threat of terrorism. And it's interesting because Theresa May was the home secretary here. She was in head of Homeland Security essentially. She had pushed for stronger legislation along these lines of the possibility of shutting down organizations that support extreme views. That was defeated because some people saw it as criminalizing thought.

INSKEEP: Wow. Well, what is it like, Frank Langfitt, to be in London in the aftermath of this attack as authorities go on to arrest something like a dozen more people?

LANGFITT: Well, we are right now in arrest-and-raid mode, which has become pretty familiar, especially after the March attack. We went through this as well. And I went to the site of a raid in East London yesterday, and it was really quite a scene. Police pulled up in the middle of a main street, very crowded Sunday afternoon, guns drawn. They barged into a first-floor apartment. I was talking to a woman named Shima Ali (ph). She's a teacher. She described what happened next.

SHIMA ALI: And then a man jumped out that window there, a young black men. And he was - this marksman here was like, go back inside or we're going to shoot you. And then he tried to jump - he jumped on to Sam's - that balcony there. And then he jumped onto that balcony. And police officers in that window grabbed him and pulled him in.

LANGFITT: It sounds very dramatic.

ALI: It is. I would've thought he would just give up. There's at least 20 guns on you.

LANGFITT: Now, the area it was called - is called East Ham. It's totally different than Central London, takes about an hour to get out there on the tube - working class, a lot of South Asians, halal butchers, mosques. And because this is the second attack in three months, I was asking people how they felt. And I was talking with Ali, who's English and Bengali, and also a friend of hers named Samantha Ulysse (ph) - she's an assistant librarian. Ulysse - she speaks first.

SAMANTHA ULYSSE: I don't actually feel unsafe. I know that these incidents have occurred, but I don't feel that we aren't safe because these people are a minority of people compared to the rest of the people who are willing to stand together.

LANGFITT: How about you? Where are you on this?

ALI: I'm just terrified. I won't go into Central London anymore. You know? It could've been anyone. Yeah. My sister works in Baker Street in (unintelligible). I'm terrified for her.

LANGFITT: So you can sort of hear that, just between two friends, very different reactions - sort of a traditional more British reaction which is, we're going to fight this, and we're going to stand steadfast, and another which is really frightened because of the repetition of these attacks.

INSKEEP: And all of this is happening at a moment when just to underline the idea that they're trying to secure a free society a general election is coming in a couple of days.

LANGFITT: Indeed, and that's going to be a very big issue in the election in the final days.

INSKEEP: Frank, thanks very much, appreciate it.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt reporting today from London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.