A driver arrested on suspicion of using his car to carry out a terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament was identified Wednesday as Salih Khater, a British citizen who migrated to England from Sudan.
Police say the 29-year-old drove a vehicle down from Birmingham, where he lived, to London early Tuesday.
Images of his car were captured on surveillance video before it sideswiped victims and rammed into a barrier outside the Palace of Westminster during the morning commute.
Authorities said Khater was not known to police or counterterrorism units and was not on a watch list.
Police said “the priority of the investigation team continues to be to understand the motivation behind this incident.” Teams have searched addresses in Birmingham and Nottingham, confiscating computer equipment and interviewing residents.
Khater’s social media accounts suggested he enjoyed soccer and liked Sudanese and Western music, including Celine Dion.
Khater was held on “suspicion of terrorist offenses” and also charged with attempted murder.
“Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident, and the investigation is being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command,” said Neil Basu, police assistant commissioner.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Britain’s counterterrorism police are carrying out 676 live investigations, up from more than 500 in March. The prime minister’s office said “13 Islamist plots and four plots by far-right extremists had been foiled in the past 18 months.”
Several witnesses told British news media the crash appeared to be intentional. The silver Ford Fiesta sideswiped cyclists and pedestrians. The London Ambulance Service said two people were hospitalized. A third suffered minor injuries.
In Washington, President Trump weighed in on the incident Tuesday morning on Twitter. “Another terrorist attack in London,” he wrote. “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”
The Palace of Westminster, where Parliament convenes, bolstered security around the buildings in March 2017, after Khalid Masood drove his car into crowds along Westminster Bridge, killing four people. In that attack, Masood leaped from his smashed car with a knife and began slashing at police and passersby. He killed one policeman before he was shot and killed by officers.
Footage from a rooftop video camera of Tuesday’s incident showed the suspect’s car clipping cyclists and narrowly missing pedestrians, jumping a curb and weaving toward the barriers, before crashing outside the Parliament building, across the street from Westminster Abbey. Parliament is on summer recess.
Police immediately surrounded the car, which was traveling fast enough to deploy its air bags upon collision. Photographs taken at the scene show police surrounding a silver sedan, with automatic weapons pointed inside the car.
The 2017 vehicular and knife attack at Westminster by Masood, a 52-year-old Muslim convert born in Britain under the name Adrian Russell Ajao, was an attempt, according to police, to carry out “Islamist-related terrorism” that was “inspired” by Islamist militant groups overseas but not directed by them.
In a WhatsApp message sent moments before the 2017 assault, Masood declared he was waging religious war on behalf of Muslim countries in the Middle East under attack by the West.