Fast Facts

  • Labour MP Jo Cox was attacked in Birstall, near Leeds
  • Police say a 52-year-old man was arrested after the deadly attack
  • Both sides on UK's EU referendum suspended campaigning
  • Cox, a mother of two, backed the Remain camp

Jo Cox, a member of the British parliament, died after being shot in northern England UK police have said.

West Yorkshire Police said on Thursday a 52-year-old man had been arrested following the incident, which prompted the suspension of campaigning for next week's referendum on the country's EU membership.

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The attack took place in Birstall, near the city of Leeds. It happened outside the library where she regularly held meetings with her constituents.

"Jo was attacked by a man who inflicted serious and sadly, ultimately fatal injuries," Dee Collins, acting chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, told reporters.

Police said a 77-year-old man was also assaulted in the incident and suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

One witness told the Press Association that Cox had intervened in a scuffle between two men, one of whom pulled a gun from a bag and then fired twice.

"She was taken by air ambulance from Birstall library near Leeds. Witnesses say she was shot and stabbed and taken by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary," Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from London, said.

Officers said weapons, including a firearm, had been recovered from the scene.

"This was a localised incident, albeit one which has a wider impact," West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson told reporters.

The attack took place in in Birstall, near the city of Leeds [Phil Noble/Reuters]

'Dreadful news'

The news of Cox's death caused deep shock across Britain.

"The whole of the Labour Party and Labour family - and indeed the whole country - will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the killing of Cox, who was a mother of two, was a tragedy.

"We have lost a great star," Cameron said in a statement. "She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart. It is dreadful, dreadful news."

"Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love," Cox's husband, Brendan, said in a statement after the slaying of his wife.

"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," he said. "Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous."

Cox was a leading campaigner for Britain to remain in the 28-member bloc and chaired the all-party parliamentary committee on Syria. 

A University of Cambridge graduate, she was the Oxfam aid agency's policy chief before entering parliament and a prominent campaigner for refugee rights.

She became a Labour MP for Batley and Spen in the May 2015 general election and was also known for her work on women's issues.

Campaigning suspended

Following the attack, both sides in Britain's June 23 referendum on leaving or staying within the EU said they were suspending campaigning, while Cameron pulled out of a planned rally in Gibraltar.

The Stronger in Europe camp said it was "suspending all campaigning" for Thursday and Friday, while a spokesman for the rival Vote Leave group, which is backing a so-called Brexit, said that their "battle bus" was returning to headquarters.

Britain's flag was flying at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament in London, while in Birstall hundreds of people attended a vigil at a local church.

Birstall residents attended a vigil in memory of Jo Cox at St Peter's Church [Phil Noble/Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies