LONDON - A mother-of-two who confronted a blood-soaked, knife-carrying man in the moments after the suspected ideologically motivated murder of a British soldier said she wanted to protect onlookers.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, 48, jumped off the bus she was riding in southeast London Wednesday when she saw the man slumped on the sidewalk next to a crashed car.
British police said on Thursday that officers from London’s counter-terrorism unit were heading up the investigation. Eyewitness reports suggest the killing may have been carried out as a protest against British military actions in Muslim countries based on what they say they heard from the alleged attackers.
Loyau-Kennett had intended to offer first aid, but instead found herself standing in the aftermath of the horrific killing of a soldier in broad daylight in Woolwich, London.
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However, when she got closer she saw a man covered in blood and carrying a butcher's knife. She also saw a handgun.
"I thought 'what the heck has happened there?'" she said.
“He was obviously a bit excited and the thing was to talk to him,” Loyau-Kennett said, adding that her instinct was to keep the suspected attacker calm in order to protect the crowd that was beginning to gather.
Pictures at the scene show her, hands in pockets, speaking apparently calmly to a man holding a long knife.
Loyau-Kennett, from Cornwall, England, found it “daunting” to continue to engage the blood-soaked man as more bystanders appeared, in particular mothers with their children.
“There were more and more mothers with children coming by so it was more and more important that I talk to him,” she said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to her Thursday, saying she was "brave" as he pledged that U.K. investigators "will not rest until we know every single detail of what happened and we've brought all of those responsible to justice."
Speaking on the steps of 10 Downing Street, he said: "This country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror. We will never give in to terror."
"One of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives. And that is what we shall all do."
A second alleged attacker, his hands covered in blood and holding a meat cleaver, was captured on video -- obtained exclusively by NBC News's U.K. news partner, ITV News -- telling passers-by: "By Allah we swear by the almighty Allah and we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone."
Eyewitnesses described the victim of the attack as being chopped up like a "piece of meat."
The witnesses said two men were later shot by officers. The injured duo were taken to a hospital where they were later arrested in connection with the case.
NBC News understands the two suspects have been investigated by British security services in the past.
The Muslim Council of Great Britain on Wednesday condemned the attack, which it said would "heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom."
"This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly," it said. "Our thoughts are with the victim and his family."
Those tensions were underlined late Wednesday when a small number of members of the anti-immigrant English Defence League extremist group were involved in minor scuffles with police in Woolwich.
In his statement to reporters on Thursday, Cameron said: "This was not just an attack on Britain - and on our 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."
However, on its English-language media Twitter feed, al Qaeda-linked Africa terror group al-Shabab said: "What Cameron describes as a sickening attack is what innocent Muslim woman and children are subjected to every day by British troops."
London Mayor Boris Johnson said it was "completely wrong" to blame the killing on Islam, saying the fault lies with the "warped and deluded" mindset of the people responsible. He said it was "equally wrong" to try to draw any link between the incident and British foreign policy.
He also called on the Londoners to send a message of defiance by carrying on "as normal" in the wake of the horrific attack.
Johnson was speaking to reporters after cycling to a meeting of the British government's emergency response committee, Cobra.