Chiefs of MI5 -- the famed British intelligence service -- have admitted that the lone Muslim assailant who killed three on Wednesday in London was known to them prior to the attack.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, less than a day after the attack that claimed three innocent victims. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the man suspected was born in Britain and been investigated by security forces. In the House of Commons, May declared, "What I can confirm is that the man was British-born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism." She to the ministers of parliament, “He was a peripheral figure," adding that "he was not part of the current intelligence picture."
In her first major crisis, May said that security forces had no prior intelligence of the man’s plot to carry out what has been described as a terrorist attack on the Westminster Bridge and Parliament. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, declaring that the attacker was one of its jihadi soldiers.
May said that the identity of the terrorist will be issued soon. “Yesterday we saw the worst of humanity, but we will remember the best,” she said. While there is no word of another attack, May said, she warned that the threat level in Britain remains unchanged: “severe.”
Mark Rowley, who leads the country’s anti-terrorism efforts said that the attacker "acted alone" and was "inspired by international terrorism." The assailant ran over more nearly two dozen people on Westminster bridge in a four-wheel drive vehicle before descending. He then attacked a security guard, stabbing him to death with a knife. Police officers shot the assailant to death on the scene. In photographs taken outside of parliament, the suspect could be seen being loaded into an ambulance. Some reports have described him as a middle-aged Asian.
Rowley said on Thursday, “It is still our belief - which continues to be born out by our investigation - that this attacker acted alone yesterday and was inspired by international terrorism. To be explicit - at this stage, we have no specific information about further threats to the public. Clearly our investigation is ongoing - developing all the time - and is focused on his motivation, his preparation and associates."
Twenty-nine people were injured in the attack. Seven are in critical condition. Three innocents have died. Officer Keith Palmer, 48, succumbed to the stabbing meted out by the attacker. A British woman in her mid-40s was run over by the attacker’s car. She is believed to be mother-of-two, Aysha Frade. A man in his mid-50s was also killed.
One German national was wounded, while an American, a dozen Britons, three French minors, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one Pole, one Irish national, one Chinese, one Italian, and two Greeks required hospital treatment.
The three French high-school students from Brittany, aged between 15 and 16, were on a school trip to London. France’s foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, went to London to visit them and Parliament. A Romanian woman was rescued from the River Thames into which she fell when struck by the assailant’s vehicle. She suffered serious wounds to her head and lungs, while her male companion suffered a fractured foot. Romanian Ambassador Dan Mihalache told a Romanian television news service, “We are not afraid.”
May showed a stiff-upper-lip while honoring police and hailing people who continued their normal activities in London. "It is in these actions - millions of acts of normality - that we find the best response to terrorism - a response that denies our enemies their victory, that refuses to let them win, that shows we will never give in," May told Parliament.
Queen Elizabeth II also offered her condolences. "My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with all those who have been affected by yesterday's awful violence," she said in a message to police.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, announced that a candlelight memorial will be held for the victims this evening in Trafalgar Square.