UPDATE: The man police believe to be responsible for the terrorist attack in Westminster has been formally identified as Khalid Masood, Scotland Yard says.
The attacker behind the terrorist rampage at the gates of the Houses of Parliament was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister has said.
The assailant, who was shot dead as he attacked police officers in the shadow of Big Ben, was considered to be a peripheral figure and had fallen from the intelligence picture, Theresa May told a packed House of Commons.
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The Met’s head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, said a woman in her mid-40s and a man in his mid-50s were among the dead as well as PC Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old husband and father.
Among the 29 treated for injuries at hospital were 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one Italian, one Irish, one American and two Greeks
May said: “The man was British-born and that some years ago was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns of violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. His case was historic. He was not part of the current intelligence picture.”
Armed police have arrested eight people during late-night raids at six addresses across the country, including in Birmingham and London,
Parliament will put on a show of stoic defiance on Thursday when politicians attempt to go about their daily duties, less than 24 hours after a “lone actor” mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and attempted to storm the seat of power in Britain.
The Met’s head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, said a woman in her mid-40s and a man in his mid-50s were among the dead, as well as PC Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old husband and father.
The woman who died was Aysha Frade, 43, a teacher and mother of two, who worked as a teacher in London, and had family in the north-western Spanish town of Betanzos, Galicia.
“It is still our belief, which continues to be borne out by our investigation, that this attacker acted alone and was inspired by international terrorism,” Rowley said.
As officers attempt to piece together details of the attacker’s background and motives, armed police raided six addresses across the country, including a second-floor flat above a row of shops on Hagley Road in Birmingham.
Witnesses to the search said they believed three men were arrested and one of the flat’s windows was covered in cardboard, with non-uniformed officers spotted taking pieces of equipment into the property.
West Midlands police confirmed arrests were made at the addresses raided in Birmingham. A statement from the force said the arrests and searches were intelligence-led and there was no immediate risk to public safety. Extra officers would be out on patrol throughout the next few days in the city, the force said.
Rowley said addresses were also searched in London and other parts of the country.
Theresa May was rushed out of parliament as the attack unfolded on Wednesday and later chaired an emergency meeting of the government’s crisis committee, Cobra. The committee will meet again on Thursday morning.
Shortly before 9pm, her voice cracking with emotion, the prime minister confirmed that what she called the “sick and depraved” attack had been carried out by a single assailant.
She also praised the bravery of the police and other emergency services, who “ran towards the danger, even as they encouraged others to move the other way”.
The prime minister added that Britain’s threat level would remain at severe, where it has been for some time; but she struck a defiant tone, insisting it would be business as usual for MPs and Londoners on Thursday.
“The location of this attack was no accident. The terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech,” she said.
Sir Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The police are investigating this man, his associates, where he came from, checking urgently whether other people were involved in this. Their working assumption is it’s linked to Islamic terrorism.”
“But they don’t yet know; the investigation – and it is a very large investigation – has been under way ever since the incident started.”
Cressida Dick, the incoming Met commissioner, Craig Mackay, the acting commissioner, and other officers held a minute’s silence in front of the “eternal flame” alight outside New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment, within sight of Westminster Bridge. The new headquarters was set to be formally opened by the Queen on Thursday but the ceremony was cancelled.
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