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UK police identify Westminster attack suspect as 52-year-old Briton

Justin Tallis, AFP | British police stand guard on London's Westminster Bridge on March 23, 2017

British police named the man who killed three people near parliament before being shot dead as Khalid Masood, saying he had a string of criminal convictions but none for terrorism-related offences.

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Masood, 52, was born in Kent to the southeast of London and had been most recently living in central England, police said.

“Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack,” they said in a statement.

“However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH [grievous bodily harm], possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.”

Earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament that the suspect was previously known to intelligence services, but was considered a “peripheral figure”.

“What I can confirm is that the man was British-born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism,” she said.

“The case is historic, he was not part of the current intelligence picture,” she added.

Police have arrested eight people at six locations in London and the central city of Birmingham in connection with the investigation into the attack.

IS group claims attack

Chaos erupted in the heart of London on Wednesday after Masood sped his vehicle across Westminster Bridge, ploughing into pedestrians. He then fatally stabbed an unarmed officer at a nearby parliament building, before being shot dead by the police.

Three people were killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group on Thursday.

The victims included the stabbed policeman, Keith Palmer, and two civilians – American tourist Kurt Cochran and a British woman identified as Aysha Frade.

Video: life returns to normal in streets of London

Around 40 people were injured, of whom 29 remain in hospital, seven in critical condition. The casualties included 12 Britons, three French students, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one American and two Greeks.

“My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with all those who have been affected by yesterday’s awful violence,” Queen Elizabeth said in a message.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump paid homage to Cochran in a tweet, calling him “a great American” and expressing condolences to his family and friends.

Westminster Bridge and an area around parliament were still cordoned off early on Thursday and forensic investigators in light blue overalls examined the scene where the attacker was shot. The bridge re-opened on Thursday afternoon.

The attack took place on the first anniversary of attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels, and resembled IS group-inspired attacks in France and Germany where vehicles were driven into crowds.

It was the deadliest such incident in Britain since 2005, when 52 people were killed by Islamist suicide bombers on London’s public transport system.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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