© Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Police tape off Parliament Square after reports of loud bangs, in London, Britain, March 22, 2017.
Two men have been shot outside parliament after charging the gates of parliament and attacking officers, it has been reported.
Witnesses say a car mowed down five pedestrians before crashing into the gates outside Portcullis House.
Reuters photographs show people lying on Westminster Bridge, bleeding heavily.
See our SOTT Focus: Westminster 'Car Terror' Attack Raises Questions
PM May was taken in a car to safety while other MPs were sealed in the Palace of Westminster. All leading MPs were in Parliament at the time of the attack. Police confirmed 4 dead
(including the attacker, PC Keith Palmer
, the police officer he stabbed, Aysha Frade who was killed on the Bridge, and American tourist Kurt Cochran
, who fell from the bridge to his death), 40 injured (7 in critical condition), and quickly said Islamic terrorism was the suspected motive (the attack took place on the one year anniversary
of the Brussels attack). Conservative MP Tobias Elwood displayed bravery at the scene of the attack, running "in the opposite direction to everyone else", toward the injured officer
, and attempted to stem his flow of blood and resuscitate him until the medics arrived. Elwood has been vocally opposed to UK intervention in Syria.
Channel 4 News backtracked on an initial report blaming Abu Izzadeen, a "hate-preacher" in London, as being behind the attack. Turns out he's currently serving time in jail
. New York police tightened security
following the attack, including at the British Consulate, British Mission to the UN, City Hall, and Grand Central Terminal. Scotland Yard announced they have made eight arrests
in six locations in connection with the attack.
Update (March 23):
PM May told Parliament today that, quelle surprise, the attacker was known to MI5
"What I can confirm is the man was British born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. The case is historic. He is not part of the current intelligence picture.
"It is still believed this attacker acted alone and police have no reason to believe there are imminent further attacks on the public. His identity is known to the police and MI5.
"When operational considerations allow he will be publicly identified."
A "full counter-terrorism investigation" is now underway. Victims have been identified as including: 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Chinese citizen, one Irish citizen, one Italian and two Greeks
The attacker has been identified as 52-yo Khalid Masood. He'd had a range of previous convictions from 1983 to 2003: assault, GBH, possession of weapons. He was apparently an English teacher and religious convert.
On cue, ISIS has claimed responsibility
for the attack: "A soldier of the Islamic State carried out the attack, responding to a call for attacking citizens of coalition states."
The Polish PM added her two cents
, saying it's "impossible not to connect" the attack with Europe's migrant policy. Farage blames multiculturalism
. (Turns out both Farage and Masood are from Kent - just sayin'.)
Update (March 24):
Yesterday, Londoners reported hearing explosion-type sounds
. Police say an unattended package was found near Buckingham Palace, close to the site of the attack. The reported sounds suggest police carried out a controlled explosion of the package, but police refused to comment, later saying it was just an unattended bag.
A fifth person
(counting Masood), Leslie Rhodes, has died from wounds sustained in the attack, a 75-yo man.
MI5 has launched an inquiry
into whether it could have prevented the attack it's (likely) responsible for. They're building a file on Masood and tracking his movements from the last weeks. They've already seized 2700 items of evidence and taken 3500 witness statements, and completed 16 searches, with 5 ongoing. Three
more arrests have been made, bringing the total up to 11. Masood's birthname was Adrian Ajao
. He also went by Adrian Elms and reportedly had more aliases. More details:
He was married with three children, and had been living with his family in an inner city suburb of Birmingham, police say.
According to reports, Masood claimed on his CV to have taught English in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and returned to the UK in 2009, where he became a "senior English teacher" at a TEFL college in Luton. In 2012, he reportedly set up an English language tutoring business, named IQRA, based in Birmingham.
British Muslim leaders have condemned
the attack as cowardly and depraved.
Eyewitness Lara Jamil spoke to RT
about her experience:
Jamil saw the car run over a young boy. After that, Jamil says:
Jamil says she came into contact with a man who was telling her to "stay away."
Update (March 25): Six more
"I looked at him, I looked at his eyes and then his beard, and then he had two knives, [he was] telling me, 'Stay away, stay away.' So at that time I thought, 'This is not an accident. This is an attack.'
"One of the things I saw in his eyes - pure blankness. Nothing. He's just killed a woman on the bridge - which I didn't know at the time - he nearly killed a boy, he was going to go and kill more, and be killed, and still you can see nothing in his eyes. Blankness - you don't see anger, sympathy , revenge, nothing," she added.
"I do feel lucky ... I thought I was really lucky. He could have just stabbed me."
Jamil says that after seeing Masood, she went to the other side of the road.
"I didn't know where he went ... I couldn't see.
"There was a shop just next to me, two guys talking, in a booth for souvenirs, selling souvenirs. And they were saying that it was an accident. I said to them, 'No, it's not. It's an attack, he had knives in his hands. He is going to harm people.' They totally dismissed me, they could not believe it.
"A few seconds [later] and we heard the bullets, the gunfire. So at that time I then ran to the boy to see how he is doing because I thought, 'Okay, the police have managed to shoot him.'"
of the 11 arrested suspects were released yesterday, leaving four remaining to be questioned - they're being held on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts. A 39-yo woman in East London had already been released on bail. The two women and four men in their 20s had been arrested in Birmingham. Today, two more
were released on bail. The Saudi embassy in London released a statement saying that "During his time in Saudi Arabia, Khalid Masood did not appear on the security services' radar and does not have a criminal record in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Masood had visited
Saudi Arabia on multiple occasions over 2005-2009 and in 2015.
Yesterday, security officials said they believe
Masood was part of a wider conspiracy and not a lone wolf. Others had a key role in indoctrinating him. Masood had used WhatsApp just minutes before the attack.
Lee Lawrence, who claims to have known Masood, says that Masood once held a knife to his throat
"He was saying, 'I want some f****** blood, I want to kill someone. I tried to calm him down but his eyes were rolling, he was off his head. He put the knife up against my throat. I grabbed his arm and pushed him away. He started saying, 'What have I done, what am I doing? I'm getting help. I just want blood, I dream about killing someone'."
Lee, who still lives in Northiam, told the Sun: "It was while he was inside that Ade turned to Islam. I only saw him once when he came out of prison. He was driving through the village, saw me and put his finger against his throat and made a slashing gesture. He loved scaring people. He got off on being the hard man."
His former childhood pal Mark Ashdown, 52, said he was shocked by the news on Wednesday but confirmed Masood's time in prison had changed him. Mark, who met Masood in secondary school said: "We were inseparable from the age of 12. He was certainly not a Muslim when I knew him. Nothing could have prepared me for hearing his name on the radio. I felt sick to the stomach that the creature dying on the stretcher outside Parliament used to be my best friend. The man who cradled my baby boy Lewis 24 years ago was the same man who mowed down children on Westminster Bridge."
He added: "When he first came out he told me he'd become a Muslim in prison and I thought he was joking. I last saw him before his second stint in prison."
Masood was married three times
. His conversion caused tension in his first marriage with Jane Harvey, when he forced his first daughter to convert to Islam and wear a burka. A relative of his second wife, Farzana Isaq says she fled from him and got a divorce because he was abusive:
"He was very violent towards her, controlling in every aspect of her life - what she wore, where she went, everything. He was a psychopath and I mean that in the very medical definition of the word. He came from a nice family, had everything, but there was something very wrong with him. He was knocking around with a crew of not very nice people. He was a loner, but the friends he had were basically criminals."
From the Independent
It was his increasing interest in fundamentalist Islam which is said to have taken him to Saudi Arabia. The security agencies are, however, examining whether he met with extremists there and had maintained contact with them since.
Update (March 26):
Ironically, in the light of what was to happen, finding Islam also seemed to have curbed Masood's violent nature, those who know him have told investigators.
London police now say they haven't found any evidence
that Masood was working with anyone else, adding that his motive "may have died with him" and that there is no reason to think further attacks are planned. But the Sunday Mirror
says that ISIS operatives used Telegram in the weeks before the attack to send messages urging lone wolf attacks in the UK.
Messages uncovered during our probe show political leaders, Jewish schools, museums, pubs and clubs were identified as "perfect targets". One message, showed to the Sunday Mirror by a source, listed a series of recent strikes mounted by IS, before asking: "So what's next? London? Berlin? Moscow? Add your city here." It then answered the question with: "Britain."
Another message we saw said: "To attack any individual or a nation's pride and joy is to cause an utmost amount of hurt/pain to the enemies of Allah who are attached to this dunya [earthly world]." Jihadists urged targeting of football matches - similar to December's Istanbul attack which killed 38 - and gave advice on where security "may be more relaxed".
The fanatics said: "Methods can include entering the stadium and detonating an explosive(s). Attacking fans/security at full time in the vicinity of the car park area or exits of the stadium. Devices can be left in around the stadium, bars, cars, busses, trains, transportation etc. Attacks can compromise of explosives, gun attacks, knife, martyrdom vests, CHEMICAL and any other."
One group launched guides for terrorists six weeks ago - on February 13. Hundreds of videos, bomb-making guides and military manuals were also uploaded to the site.
After news that Masood used WhatsApp
, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd 'demanded that intelligence agencies be given access to WhatsApp messages, warning it is "completely unacceptable" to let terrorists benefit from end-to-end encryption.' Right on cue.
More details have emerged on Masood's alleged personality. Apparently he was also a "party animal" who loved crack sessions with hookers
Masood, 52, went on drug binges for 72 hours at a time — then robbed pushers at knifepoint for his next fix.
[His former landlady] Cassie revealed he often got violent after benders on everything from crack cocaine to acid.
She said: "He wasn't a proper Muslim. He s*****d prostitutes, smoked copious amounts of crack and stuck knives in people's faces. He was a madman. After one four-day crack session, one druggie pal got paranoid and accused him of being an undercover cop. Adrian went absolutely wild and ran to the kitchen to grab the biggest knife he could find. He went back in the room and slashed the guy's face to pieces. It was horrific, but he always had that darker side about him."
Masood posed as an ardent Muslim, once threatening to kill a female friend at a party after a joke about religion and heaven with Islam as the punchline. But other pals fear he may have been high on booze and drugs during his terror rampage.
One said: "He would take anything, from coke and ecstasy to acid and crack, which he would get through like a steam train. When high his mood dominated everything in a nasty way. You would be put in your place with a terrifying glare. He would start a fight or slam tables demanding to know where his cigarettes were, just to make sure he was centre stage. As soon as the picture of the terrorist on a stretcher outside Parliament was published, we suspected it was him. It was the last act of a man who spent most of his life terrorising others."
He claimed to be a labourer. But pals say he made a living thieving fishing boats. The crook would sail them to France and flog the fishing licences before returning to the UK and dumping them. One friend revealed: "He did that for years in Eastbourne and must have made £100,000. Sometimes he returned the boats to where he found them. At other times he would simply abandon them. He didn't need to do it. He was a bright guy who told us how good his previous job was in London before he came to Sussex."
One of the few things to bring out his softer side was his two kids. A pal said: "He adored them. His eyes changed. It makes you wonder, if someone's got that love and understanding, how can they kill?"
Meanwhile, a former housemate told how the maniac was radicalised while spending hours online at his Birmingham home in 2012.
The ex-housemate wept as he recalled: "He never got off his computer and never let anyone look at it. He was addicted to it. "He had a small room downstairs. There were often Arab guys coming in and out. I confronted him after I got suspicious. But he claimed they were paying him £8,000 a time to write their university theses. At the time I believed him but looking back maybe he was plotting something. I feel sick I didn't realise the man he was."
Masood would also plead with his housemate to pray with him in a bid to convert him to Islam. The man recalled: "He often talked to me about Islam and said I should take that path. I would meet him at 6am in the kitchen. He had a friendly smile and always said, 'Good morning, my friend. Are you going to pray with me?'"