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British police arrest several over deadly Westminster attack claimed by Islamic State group

Justin Tallis, AFP | The British Metropolitan Police's Acting Deputy Commissioner, and Head of Counter Terrorism, Mark Rowley addresses in central London on March 23, 2017

Eight people have been arrested in raids on several addresses in London, Birmingham and elsewhere in the country in connection with the deadly attack at Westminster, British police said Thursday.

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Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley told reporters at a press conference held outside London’s police headquarters that the arrests had been made after at least six raids on addresses across the country, with the bulk of them having been carried out in Birmingham and the capital.

“The inquiries in Birmingham and other parts of the country are continuing,” he said.

Rowley refused to give details about the attacker but said the assailant is believed to have acted alone after being “inspired by international terrorism”.

The attacker has been identified and was known to British security, according to a British security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about ongoing security operations.

Rowley said the investigation was continuing around Westminster but expected that lawmakers would be able to go ahead with plans to reconvene in a show of solidarity.

On Wednesday, the suspect ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two people, before crashing the vehicle into the gates of Britain’s parliament, scaling the fences and fatally stabbing a policeman. Dozens of people were injured and seven of them are in critical condition. The Islamic State group claimed the attack on Thursday.

Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down for hours after the man was shot by police within the perimeter of parliament, just yards from entrances to the building itself and in the shadow of the iconic Big Ben clock tower.

A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some of the victims had "catastrophic" injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip, two Romanian tourists and five South Korean visitors were among the injured.

The threat level for international terrorism in the United Kingdom was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was "highly likely”.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the government's emergency committee, COBRA, Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that level would not change. She said attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.

Londoners and visitors "will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart”, May said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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