Car crash outside UK parliament being treated as a ‘terrorist incident’ say London police

The government is holding a meeting of its COBRA emergency response committee to discuss the incident, officials said

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 10:53pm

London’s Metropolitan Police say that they are treating a car crash outside parliament as a terrorist incident.

Authorities said in a statement on Tuesday that a man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences after the silver Ford Fiesta collided with a number of cyclists and pedestrians before crashing into the barriers during the morning rush hour.

He is in custody. No one else was in the car, which was being searched at the scene.

“The driver of the car, a man in his late 20s... was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences,” said a police statement. “There was nobody else in the vehicle, which remains at the scene and is being searched. No weapons have been recovered at this stage.”

The government is holding a meeting of its COBRA emergency response committee to discuss the incident, officials said.

Earlier, police said the male driver of the car had been arrested at the scene of the crash which happened at 7:37am. Images showed police holding the man, dressed in jeans and a black puffer jacket, in handcuffs.

The BBC, citing unnamed sources, said the man was from the Birmingham area.

While not known to the MI5 domestic spy agency or Britain’s counter-terrorism network, was known to police.

“This appears to be a deliberate act,” Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said in a televised press conference in London. “We are treating it as a terrorist incident.”

Basu said the man was not co-operating with police.

London’s Ambulance Service said it treated two people for injuries at the scene and they had been taken to hospital. Their injuries were not believed to be serious.

“The car drove at speed into the barriers outside the House of Lords. There was a loud bang from the collision and a bit of smoke,” said witness Ewelina Ochab. “The driver did not get out. The guards started screaming to people to move away.”

Another witness, Jason Williams, said the car hit a barrier on a lane used for access to parliament. He said he thought it was deliberate.

“It’s a very serious incident,” he told reporters. “There was smoke coming from the vehicle.”

Images shot by a Euronews journalist showed police pointing their guns at a vehicle. Footage on social media showed a handcuffed man being led away by heavily armed police. Other footage showed a cyclist lying on the street.

“I saw the cyclists, injured cyclists. I’ve seen people, about 10, on the road, lying down, but I haven’t seen any fatalities,” Williams said.

Westminster Underground station, close to parliament, was closed to the public and the building cordoned off.

Parliament is in summer recess and most lawmakers are not using the building. Prime Minister Theresa May is on holiday abroad. May tweeted that her “thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response”.

“All Londoners, like me, utterly condemn all acts of terrorism on our city,” London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter.

US President Donald Trump, who has previously spoken out about security issues in London, tweeted:

“Another terrorist attack in London...These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

The incident heightened tensions in a city that has seen four attacks involving vehicles in less than 18 months.

In March 2017, Khalid Masood, 52, killed four people on nearby Westminster Bridge before he stabbed to death an unarmed police officer in the grounds of parliament. He was shot dead at the scene. It was the first of five attacks on Britain last year which police blamed on terrorism.

Last week, a Muslim convert admitted plotting to kill more than 100 people by driving a truck into pedestrians on London’s Oxford Street, the capital’s major shopping thoroughfare.

In October last year, 11 people were injured when a car collided with pedestrians near London’s Natural History Museum, raising fears of an attack, but police later said the incident was an accident.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Bloomberg