The Westminster attacker, 52-year old British-born Khalid Masoud, was claimed as “a soldier of the Islamic State” Thursday, March 23, after he murdered three people and injured more than forty. Some are still in critical condition. The London Metropolitan Police do not now believe he was acting alone. In pursuit of accomplices, anti-terror police made eight arrests at six addresses in East London and Birmingham on suspicion of “preparation of terror attacks." More arrests are expected.
In Antwerp, Belgium, 24 hours later, a man wearing military-style uniform, was arrested trying to drive at high speed into a crowd before anyone was hurt. He was identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, a French national of North African origin living in France. Bomb disposal experts found knives, a shotgun and a gas can in his car.
French and Belgian police say the London and Antwerp terror attacks were linked. The second attack was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the same time as the assault at the British parliament, a twin event to "celebrate"the first anniversary of the Islamic State's suicide bombing on the Brussels airport and subway which murdered 32 people.
Khalid Masoud began his rampage of terror Wednesday by plowing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then crashing his car into the railings of Parliament Yard and ending with a stabbing attack on policemen guarding the entrance to the House.
He had been known to the police and intelligence services, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed to a shocked House Thursday. She told the MPs he had been investigated some years ago, but was not part of the current intelligence picture, which means he was under the radar at present.
Police said he had a string of convictions for various criminal offensives unrelated to terrorism.
Masoud, who was shot dead by police officers barring his attempt to storm the British parliament, was a married father of three and a former English teacher. Born in Kent outside London, he is believed to have been living in Birmingham.
Read earlier debkafile reports on the incident.
The terrorist attack that hit London Wednesday, March 22, was all the more shocking in that it came closer than ever before to assaulting a Western government center since Al Qaeda 16 years ago crashed a plane onto the Pentagon in Washington, not far from the White House. This Wednesday, four people lost their lives in London, including a police officer, and more than 40 were injured. The terrorist mowed down pedestrians on the crowded Westminster Bridge and then stabbed policemen who barred him from storming Parliament, before he was shot dead. The British police rate the attack a terrorist incident presumed inspired by the Islamic State, although his identity has not been affirmed.
Careful reconnaissance would have shown him that the entrance to the building serving the vehicles of the prime minister and cabinet members afforded access to the House when it opened for cars. He would also have noticed that, while armed police guarded the House, the vicinity and its famous landmarks, such as Westminster Bridge, were not similarly guarded. Prime Minister Theresa May’s explanation in an address to the nation that night was that England is proud of its traditions of freedom and democracy.
So the terrorist was free to run down dozens of civilians unopposed, before crashing into the railings of the Palace of Westminster and racing to the entrance. His only weapons were a knife and a car. The dimensions of the atrocity had the terrorist carried a powerful firearm are unthinkable.
DEBKA reported Wednesday
Hours after two terrorist attacks at the British House of Parliament Wednesday, March 22, police were still not certain whether they were carried out by a single terrorist, more than one or the work of a terrorist network. A second death was reported of the 20 injured on Westminster Bridge. The assailant stabbed three police officers who prevented him entering the building. One has since died. The assailant was shot and died of his injures. Later, a woman was pulled alive out of the River Thames.
As central London and its transport system ground to a halt, and security police spread over an ever widening net, no one was sure whether the episode was over. Scotland Yard Commander B.J. Harrington said that a full-scale terrorist investigation is underway and called on the public to report with any information and be vigilant.
Cobra, the government’s crisis committee, meets with senior officials from government, counter-terrorism officials and the police present. The meeting will be led by the prime minister. Armed and unarmed police are on duty on the streets of London. Anti-terror police teams are scouring the cavernous parliament building, where lawmakers remain under lockdown along with Downing Street.
The London Eye at the Thames stopped trapping its “guests” within the attraction..
The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people.
debkafile reported straight after the attack.
The UK parliament is in lockdown after an apparent multiple terror attack with at least ten injuries. Several people were struck by a vehicle on Westminster Bridge. The vehicle carried on driving towards Parliament and crashed through the railings into the yard. At the same time, an assailant entered Parliament, stabbed a policeman and was quickly shot by armed police. Parliament was suspended by the Speaker and members were ordered to stay in place. Ambulances are evacuating he at least 12 people injured on Westminster Bridge. One woman has died in hospital.. A police officer bundled Prime Minister Theresa May out of the House. Downing Street is also under lockdown. Scotland Yard is treating this as a terrorist incident until proven otherwise.
Theresa May was rushed into a car 40 yards from the gates outside parliament where shots were fired minutes after the incident occurred, according to footage filmed by a member of staff. She was ushered by at least eight armed undercover police, some with their firearms drawn, into a waiting black vehicle in Speaker’s Court.
There is some speculation that a single assailant may have carried out both incidents. If so, the incident has been contained. If there were two, the second terrorist is on the run.