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London attacker was British-born, known to intelligence agencies

Prime Minister Theresa May said that the attack in London’s Westminster was related to Islamist terrorism and the attacker‘s identity was known to the police and intelligence services

world Updated: Mar 23, 2017 21:27 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Emergency services staff provide medical attention to injured people on the south side of Westminster Bridge after a terror attack on Wednesday.
Emergency services staff provide medical attention to injured people on the south side of Westminster Bridge after a terror attack on Wednesday.(AP)

Prime Minister Theresa May revealed on Thursday that the Westminster attacker was a person born in Britain whose identity was known to the police and intelligence services, and said eight people had been arrested in raids in London and Birmingham overnight.

Making a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday’s terror attack that left four people dead and 29 injured, including seven critical, May said the threat level from international terrorism will remain at the second-highest level of “severe”. 

She confirmed that the attack was related to Islamist terrorism: "Our working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology. We know the threat from Islamist terrorism is very real. But while the public should remain utterly vigilant they should not and will not be cowed by this threat.”

 May did not reveal the identity of the attacker but said he was a “peripheral figure” known to intelligence agency MI5 and was investigated some years ago in relation to terrorism. Some reports said the car used in the attack was hired in Birmingham.

The large number of tourists who usually throng the picturesque Westminster Bridge was reflected in the nationalities of those injured. May said those injured included 12 Britons, three French, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Chinese, one Irish, one Italian, one American and two Greeks.

 May, MPs and others paid tributes to Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood, who was called a “hero” for trying his best to save the life of police officer Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death by the attacker within the parliament precincts.

 The Union Jack flew at half-mast, some roads around the Westminster village remained closed, but the humdrum of everyday life quickly returned in most of London on Thursday as parliament sent out a message of defiance against terrorism.

In fact, even as Wednesday’s terror attack was taking place and was being dealt with by Scotland Yard near the Big Ben and parliament square, few elsewhere in this sprawling metropolis appeared concerned or changed their routine.

Eight arrests were made and addresses raided in Birmingham, London and elsewhere as Scotland Yard, the parliament, the London ambulance service and others observed a minute’s silence in memory of those killed. Leaders and cities across the world expressed solidarity with London.

London mayor Sadiq Khan announced a vigil at Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening. The threat to Britain from international terrorism remains since August 2014 at “severe”, and officials insisted that it would not be upgraded to the highest level of “critical”.

 Mark Rowley of Scotland Yard  said: “It is still our belief - which continues to be borne out by our investigation - that this attacker acted alone yesterday and was inspired by international terrorism… Clearly our investigation is ongoing - developing all the time - and is focused on his motivation, his preparation and associates.”