London: British citizen of Sudanese origin Salih Khater was driving the car that injured three persons in a terror attack outside the UK’s Parliament, government sources said today.
The 29-year-old, who has studied electrical engineering in Sudan, lived in Birmingham’s Sparkhill district.
He describes himself as a shop manager. He was held on suspicion of terrorism by Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command after the crash yesterday.
Khater, a British citizen originally from Sudan, continues to be questioned at a south London police station as searches are undertaken at three addresses in Birmingham and Nottingham as part of the investigation.
It has emerged that he spent 90 minutes trawling the area around the Houses of Parliament before speeding into the barriers, having travelled up from Birmingham, 200 kms from here, overnight on Monday.
The suspect, who is yet to be officially named by police, had studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology, according to his Facebook page.
Abubakr Ibrahim, a childhood friend of Khater, told The Times: “No, no, no. He is not a terrorist. I have known him since childhood. He is a good man.” He said that Khater was the son of sorghum farmers.
He had moved to Britain about five years ago, having studied electrical engineering in Khartoum. Ibrahim said, “His family are very simple and they let him travel to London to help them.”
The suspect’s Sparkbrook rental property in Birmingham is a 10-minute drive from the former home of Khalid Masood, the terrorist shot dead by armed officers during the last attack on Parliament in March last year.
He is not believed to have been known to MI5 or counter-terrorism police and did not co-operate with officers after his arrest.
Khater drove the car at high speed and ploughed into several pedestrians and cyclists before crashing into security barriers outside Parliament during rush hour, injuring three persons.
It was the second terrorism incident on the iconic building in central London since March last year. Yesterday, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing in the UK, said, “we are treating it as a terrorist incident.”
A meeting of the UK government’s Cobra emergency committee was held in the wake of the attack. A Met police spokesperson said that there was nobody else in the vehicle. No weapons have been recovered at this stage.
The car was seen wedged into flap-style barriers that allows vehicles access to the House of Lords, giving the impression that the driver may have been trying to gain access to the Parliament building.
The Houses of Parliament are surrounded with security barriers of steel and concrete. Parliament is currently not sitting. Britain’s terror threat level remains at “severe,” which means an attack is highly likely, since a series of terrorist attacks last year.
The UK has been on high alert since the March 2017 attack in which Khalid Masood drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing five, before going on a stabbing spree at the gates of Parliament.
It was followed by a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May, which claimed 23 lives.
In June last year, a group of three ISIS-inspired men rammed a vehicle into pedestrians in London Bridge area before going on a stabbing frenzy, killing eight people before being shot by armed officers.