Police officers work at the scene after an attack on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain, March 22, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Islamic State claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s terrorist attack outside London’s Houses of Parliament, in which two civilians and a police officer were murdered by the perpetrator, who was revealed by British police to be 53-year-old British-born Khalid Masood.
In a statement put out via its news agency Amaq, ISIS claimed, “The perpetrator of the attacks yesterday in front of the British Parliament in London is an Islamic State soldier and he carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition.”
Some 40 people were wounded, seven in critical condition. Some of the nationalities of the wounded were confirmed by Prime Minister Theresa May, including 12 Britons, three French 10th graders, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one American and two Greeks.
The attack is believed to have been a lone-wolf incident, though police on Thursday arrested eight people in raids across London, Birmingham and other locations in the UK in response to the attack.
Masood was born in Kent, UK, but had most recently resided in the West Midlands region. He had several convictions on charges not pertaining to terrorism, including public order offenses and possession of firearms, having first been convicted in 1983. According to the official police statement, “Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.”
Addressing a somber House of Commons, May spoke of how “lots has been said since terror struck London yesterday. Much more will be said in the coming days. But the greatest response lies not in the words of politicians, but in the everyday actions of ordinary people.”
Commending the city and country’s ability to return to normality after the assault, she noted that “beyond these walls today – in scenes repeated in towns and cities across the country – millions of people are going about their days and getting on with their lives. The streets are as busy as ever. The offices full. The coffee shops and cafes bustling. As I speak, millions will be boarding trains and airplanes to travel to London, and to see for themselves the greatest city on Earth.”
In the attack, Masood drove his car over several pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing the car into a Parliament gate, where he exited and stabbed a police officer to death before being shot and killed by police.
The wounded officer, PC Keith Palmer, who subsequently died, received first aid at the scene from Middle East and Africa Minister Tobias Ellwood, who tried to resuscitate him.
Ellwood, who lost his brother in the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings, was praised as a hero by the media and his colleagues. Leader of the Liberal Democrats, MP Tim Farron, said on Wednesday: “Today, Tobias gave MPs a good name. He was utterly heroic, pure and simple.”
Police officers gathered at Scotland Yard for a moment of silence at 09:33 a.m. on Thursday to honor the victims – 933 was Palmer’s badge number.
The other two murder victims were named as Aysha Frade, a British teacher who taught at a nearby college, and Kurt Cochran, an American tourist who was on a tour of Europe with his wife to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan invited all Londoners to a candlelit vigil held in Trafalgar Square later in the evening to stand in solidarity with the victims of the attack.
“London is the greatest city in the world. We will never be cowed by terrorism. We stand together, in the face of those who seek to harm us and destroy our way of life. We always have, and we always will,” he told the press.
Some on the Right have suggested that the attack was the result of the failure of UK Muslim communities to assimilate. UKIP leader Paul Nuttall stated: “Though we now know that the individual concerned was born in the UK, this shows that we clearly have an integration crisis. It is time for the government to actually start confronting practices that are dividing off Muslim communities – FGM, sharia tribunals, first cousin marriage, forced marriage, so-called ‘honor’ violence, etc. etc. All are unacceptable in Britain.”
In response to these comments, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said: “Every time you think UKIP can’t sink any lower, they do. It is abhorrent that Paul Nuttall is trying to capitalize on this terrible tragedy to create division between communities.
“A brief look around him would have revealed to Nuttall a resilient, multicultural society coming together to reject violence,” he added.Lauren Chaplin and Reuters contributed to this report.