LONDON (Reuters) – A man detained on suspicion of carrying out a terrorist attack outside Britain’s parliament is Salih Khater, a British citizen of Sudanese origin, a European security source told Reuters on Wednesday.
Police believe a car was deliberately driven into pedestrians and cyclists injuring three people before ramming a security barrier outside parliament during the rush hour on Tuesday morning.
The 29-year-old driver was arrested at the scene and officers are currently searching three addresses in central England as part of their investigation into the incident.
The source told Reuters that Khater was from Birmingham, central England, and was not known to security services before Tuesday. The motive for the suspected attack is not yet known, the source added.
Speaking shortly after the incident, Britain’s counter-terrorism police chief said that it appeared the incident was “a deliberate act” at an iconic site and was therefore being treated as a terrorist incident.
Video footage showed the car veering across the road and into a security lane leading to parliament before smashing into the barrier. The car involved, a silver Ford Fiesta, has been removed and the security lane was open as usual.
A police officer stands at the vehicle barrier to the Houses of Parliament where a car crashed after knocking down cyclists and pedestrians yesterday in Westminster, London, Britain, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Police said late on Tuesday they were searching two addresses in Birmingham and one in Nottingham in a bid to understand “the full circumstances and motivation behind this incident”.
The suspect, who has not been formally identified, was not cooperating with detectives, police have said. No one else was in the vehicle at the time of the incident and no weapons have been found.
Police said the incident appeared to be the second terrorist attack at the parliament building in just under 18 months, after Khalid Masood, 52, killed four people on nearby Westminster Bridge in March 2017. He also stabbed to death an unarmed police officer in the grounds of parliament before being shot dead.
That was the first of five attacks in Britain last year that police designated as terrorism, three of which used vehicles as weapons.
The latest attack has prompted a debate about banning traffic from the square and making it a pedestrian area, an option favored by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
“I’ve been an advocate for a while now of part-pedestrianising Parliament Square, but making sure we don’t lose the wonderful thing about our democracy which is people having access to parliamentarians, people being able to lobby parliament, and visitors being able to come and visit parliament,” he told BBC radio.
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Additional reporting by Kate Holton and Michael Holden; Editing by Jon Boyle