March 24, 2017 at 5:23 AM
BIRMINGHAM, England — British authorities have identified the man responsible for Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London as 52-year-old Khalid Masood, born as Adrian Russell Ajao. Originally from Kent, he had been living in Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city, where neighbors said Thursday they had last seen him several months ago.
Marjoli Gajecka, 26, frequently visited her mother's house next to Masood’s apartment. “I immediately recognized him when I saw the photo of him lying on an ambulance stretcher,” said Gajecka, referring to a photo that had circulated on social media and purportedly showed the attacker. Masood was fatally shot by police after a vehicle and knife rampage near Parliament in London that left three people dead and at least 29 wounded.
“They were just an ordinary family. I would never have assumed that he was in any way related to terrorist activity,” she said. According to Gajecka, Masood lived in Birmingham with a wife and at least two children — one girl and one boy. He was sometimes seen in his garden, playing with his children, Gajecka and other former neighbors said.
One man living in a house across the street, who declined to be identified because he did not want to be associated with Masood’s name, said he had assumed that the apartment was empty for years because he had never seen anyone walk in or out of it.
Authorities searched the apartment after being contacted by Enterprise, a rental car company. "An employee identified the vehicle after seeing the licence plate in an image online. We ran another check to verify, and immediately contacted the authorities," said company spokesman John Davies.
The license plate of the car used in the attack belonged to a Hyundai, rented in Birmingham on March 16 at Enterprise's Springhill Branch, according to the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College. Its researchers used open-source methodology to track down the car's registration and to verify the renter's identity within two hours of the attack.
Authorities neither confirmed the address of his apartment nor details about the rental car on Thursday.
In a statement, police said that Masood was also known by other aliases and that he most likely has a different birth name.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service, known as Scotland Yard, confirmed that Masood “was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.”
Before his name was officially released, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attacker was once investigated for possible extremist links but was “not part of the current intelligence picture.”
May did not name the assailant in her remarks, but she offered new details about past scrutiny by authorities, who said the London attack was “inspired by international terrorism.”
In its statement, Scotland Yard confirmed that Masood was known to police because of previous convictions for assaults, public order offenses and possession of offensive weapons. He was last convicted in 2003, for possession of a knife.
Karla Adam contributed to this report from London.