UK police search 21 sites, combing through data

2017-03-24 22:02
An undated photo of Khalid Masood released by the Metropolitan Police. (AP)

An undated photo of Khalid Masood released by the Metropolitan Police. (AP)

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London - British police are combing through "massive amounts of computer data," have searched more than 20 sites and have contacted thousands of witnesses in a vast operation to trace how a British man became radicalised and launched a deadly attack on Parliament.

In a briefing outside Scotland Yard, London's top counter-terror officer, Mark Rowley, said more "significant" arrests had been made, bringing to 10 the number of people in custody over Wednesday's attack, which killed four people and the assailant.

Police said the attacker, Khalid Masood, was born Adrian Russell Ajao in southern England in 1964. He was also known as Adrian Elms and "may also be known by a number of other names".

Transit system

The latest arrests were a man and a woman detained early on Friday in Manchester, northwest England. Police believe Masood acted alone but Rowley said police were trying to determine whether others "encouraged, supported or directed him".

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Westminster Bridge and at Parliament.

Detectives have searched 21 properties in London, Brighton, Wales, Manchester and the central English city of Birmingham in one of Britain's biggest counter-terrorism operations in years.

Wednesday's attack was the deadliest in Britain since suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London's transit system in July 2005.

"We've seized 2 700 items from these searches, including massive amounts of computer data for us to work through," Rowley said, adding that contact had been made with 3 500 witnesses.

"We've received hundreds of uploads of video images to our online platform. Given this attack was in the heart of the capital we also, of course, are dealing with statements from a wide range of nationalities."

Masood drove his car into people on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a police officer on the Houses of Parliament grounds. He was shot dead by police.

Significant injuries

An American man from Utah, a British retiree and British woman school administrator were killed on the bridge and police officer Keith Palmer was stabbed to death at Parliament, police said.

The latest victim, a man who died in a hospital on Thursday, was identified as 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes from south London.

More than 50 people of a dozen nationalities were wounded in the attack, 31 of whom required hospital treatment.

Rowley said two police officers targeted in the attack have significant injuries. Two other people also remain in critical condition, one with life-threatening injuries.

The 52-year-old attacker was born in southeastern England and had most recently been living in Birmingham, where several properties have been searched by police. Police say Masood has had a string of convictions between 1983 and 2003 for offences including assault and possession of an offensive weapon.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday that Masood was "investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism" some years ago. But she called him "a peripheral figure".

Searching for clues

The manager of a hotel in the beachside city of Brighton in southern England, where Masood stayed the night before the attack, said he seemed unusually outgoing and mentioned details about his family, including having a sick father.

"He was normal, in fact friendly, because we spent possibly five or 10 minutes talking to him about his background," said Sabeur Toumi.

Police raided the room at the Preston Park Hotel in Brighton after the attack, searching for clues.

Londoners continued to lay flowers and sign condolence books for the victims on Friday, as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders gathered in solidarity outside Westminster Abbey.


Read more on:    theresa may  |  uk  |  security

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