British Lawmaker Stabbed And Shot In A Shocking Attack

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One of Britain’s most promising lawmakers was stabbed and shot Thursday in broad daylight as she was coming out of a meeting with her constituents in Birstall, near Leeds. The violent and brazen attack stunned the country, where assaults on politicians are extremely rare.

This incident is the first of its kind in recent history, reports CNN. The last lawmaker to be killed in office was Conservative MP Ian Gow whose car was bombed by the IRA in 1990. Gun assaults are rare in Britain, something the authorities attribute to tight gun-control laws.

Jo Cox, 41, was described as “a rising star” of the opposition Labour Party. Widely respected by everyone, Cox won the election last year after a long career in humanitarian work. She was outspoken in her advocacy for the refugees and civilians in Syria, and in leading the campaign to find a solution towards ending the Syrian conflict.

Police officials and eyewitnesses report that Cox was leaving a library alone when she was attacked on the street. British politicians of her level are hardly ever accompanied by a security detail. She was pronounced dead just before 2:00 p.m., local time, as a result of her injuries.

A 52-year-old man was taken into custody as a suspect in her murder, identified by the Press Association as Tommy Mair. Dee Collins, Temporary Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, said weapons were recovered from the suspect, including a firearm. Mair, a local resident, has been described as quiet and devoted to his mother. He is said to have not expressed strong political opinions, but had an obsessive personality.

No motive was given, but British media organizations have quoted witnesses as saying that the attacker shouted “Britain first!” Britain First is a far-right organization that believes in anti-Muslim causes. However, the group posted a statement on its website denying its involvement and condemning the attack, reports The Washington Post.

Cox’s death is being mourned all over the country, as her family, colleagues and constituents alike praised the MP’s character and leadership.

Prime minister David Cameron told the BBC,

We’ve lost a great star. She had a huge heart. She was a very compassionate, campaigning MP. She was a bright star, no doubt about it — a star for her constituents, a star for Parliament, and a star right across the House, and we have lost a star.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, called the attack “a devastating blow to our democracy.” Cox had previously served as adviser to Sarah Brown, Brown’s wife, on women’s and children’s health issues. “Sarah and I were privileged to work with Jo and her husband Brendan over many years and in her tireless efforts on behalf of poor and desolate children and mothers. She went to some of the most dangerous places in the world. The last place she should have been in danger was in her home town.”

Alison McGovern from the Labour Party said of Cox’s work, “Not everyone gets to Westminster to represent their hometown and makes the impact that she has,” in reference to the House of Commons. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said Cox was “universally liked at Westminster.”

The killing comes just one week ahead of the controversial and historical decision on whether Britain will stay with or leave the European Union, with passions running high and debates overpowering civil discourse. Parliament members on both sides of the argument have been severely criticized. Cox, an MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire, supported Britain staying in the European Union.

Both pro- and anti-EU parties have agreed to suspend their campaigns at least until the weekend.

Cox leaves behind a husband and two young daughters. Brendan Cox, her husband, said,

I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

He said in a statement that his wife would have had no regrets. “Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people. She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.”

Vigils have been held in Birstall and in Parliament Square, London, as people gathered in an outpouring of grief and show of tribute for the slain lawmaker.

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