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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Man arrested after crashing car into London parliament barriers

British newspaper names man as Salih Khater, a 29-year-old Sudanese immigrant who lived in Birmingham

Armed police at the scene after a car crashed into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament, London, on August 7. Reuters.
Armed police at the scene after a car crashed into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament, London, on August 7. Reuters.

A man has been arrested on suspicion of terror offences after he drove a car into cyclists and pedestrians outside London’s Houses of Parliament during the rush hour on Tuesday.

Three people were injured, and London's Metropolitan Police said they were treating the "deliberate act" as a terrorist incident, with counter-terrorism officers leading investigations.

The Met said the suspect was a 29-year-old British national and he was being questioned under terrorism laws. The car was driven down to London on Monday evening and was parked in Tottenham Court Road overnight. It was driven around the city centre for more than an hour before the attempted crash into parliament.

"The driver of the car, a 29-year-old man, who is a UK national, was arrested at the scene by armed officers," the appeal for witnesses said.

The Met said: "As part of their inquiries, detectives are also carrying out searches at two addresses in Birmingham and an address in Nottingham. These searches remain ongoing and are being carried out by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command."

The man was later identified by the Daily Mail as Salih Khater, a Sudanese immigrant who lived in Birmingham. The newspaper claimed that Mr Khater was known to police and had driven from his flat in the Hall Green area of the West Midlands city on Monday night. He reportedly arrived just after midnight and spent the early hours of Tuesday cruising around the capital.

Footage on social media showed heavily-armed police response units arriving at the scene, with the area outside the parliament building and nearby Whitehall in central London sealed off. The Westminster Underground station was initially closed but later reopened.

The UK's anti-terrorism chief, Neil Basu, said it seemed to be a "deliberate attack". Mr Basu said the man was not cooperating with police and officers "haven’t formally identified him but we don’t believe he was known to police or MI5 before”.

"Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident," he said.

"At this early stage of the investigation, no other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported to police," he said. "There is no intelligence of further danger to Londoners or the rest of the UK in connection with this incident.

The police chief said that the suspect had not volunteered a reason for the incident.

"Our priority is to formally identify the suspect and establish his motivations if we can," he said. "He is not currently co-operating."

The car veered onto to the opposite side of the road, hitting cyclists before crashing into barriers. One patient treated at St Thomas' Hospital was discharged on Tuesday.

"I think it looked intentional – the car drove at speed and towards the barriers," said eyewitness Ewalina Ochab. "I was walking on the other side [of the road]. I heard some noise and someone screamed. I turned around and I saw a silver car driving very fast close to the railings, maybe even on the pavement."

"For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door," said UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who is on holiday. “My thoughts are with the innocent members of the public who were hurt in this appalling incident. I wish them a speedy recovery and we must be thankful that nobody suffered life-threatening injuries."

United States President Donald Trump claimed there was an extremist motive. "Another terrorist attack in London," he wrote on Twitter. "These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!"

Officials chaired a meeting of the government's emergency committee, know as Cobra on Tuesday. Sajid Javid, the UK's home secretary, returned from his family holiday.

Last year, Khalid Masood murdered five people — including a police officer — and injured 50, when he ploughed his car into pedestrians in a terrorist attack. Masood was shot dead by police.

Incidents such as Tuesday's crash have in the past triggered copy cat attempts. Police said 13 extremist and four far-right plots have been foiled by the security services since March last year.