LONDON: A British man of foreign origin has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences after ploughing his car on Tuesday into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament and leaving three people injured.

The man, who is black and aged 29, appeared to intentionally career a silver Ford Fiesta into the wrong lane of rush-hour traffic at 7.37 am BST, hitting a number of cyclists as well as pedestrians before veering back onto the correct side of the road and driving at speed down a 20mph (speed limit) access road leading to the car park of the House of Lords and smashing into a crash barrier, forcing two police officers to jump out of the way.

The man, believed to be from Birmingham area, did not make any attempt to flee. Armed police swooped on the scene within 10 seconds, surrounded his car, which had smoke coming out of it, and pointing guns at him dragged him out and arrested him. Bystanders said the man, dressed in blue jeans and a black bomber jacket, “looked calm” as he was taken away in handcuffs for questioning.

All eyewitnesses said the attack looked “deliberate”. Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the incident appeared to be a “crude and deliberate attack on Parliament”, which is currently in recess.

Armed police and sniffer dogs quickly flooded the scene alongside fire engines and ambulance crews. Westminster tube shut down for six hours and many roads were cordoned off.

Two people were taken to the hospital. One man was later discharged but one female cyclist remains in a serious but not life-threatening condition. Another man was treated for injuries at the scene.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the suspect was a “British citizen who had originally come from another country”. The Metropolitan police confirmed the driver was a UK national who travelled from Birmingham to London late on Monday night, arriving in London just after midnight on August 14. The car was in the Tottenham Court Road area from approximately 1.25 am until 5:55 am. It was then driven around the Westminster area from approximately 6 am and stayed in this area until the time of the incident.

Officers from the Met’s counter-terrorism command are carrying out searches at two addresses in Birmingham and an address in Nottingham. The police confirmed the man has been arrested on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act, contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2006.

Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said: “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.”

He said the suspect’s vehicle had been searched and no weapons found. But he said the suspect was “not cooperating” with the police and they had so far failed to establish a motive. He said it appeared to be a lone-wolf attack.

“At this early stage of the investigation, no other suspects at the scene have been identified or reported to police. We don’t believe this person is known to either MI5 or counter-terrorism police,” he added.

An officials’ Cobra emergency response meeting took place in the afternoon, as specialist crime scene officers, forensic experts and detectives continued to examine the scene.

It is understood the car is registered in Nottingham and the suspect bought it two months ago.

Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as “shocking”. Speaking from Switzerland, where she is on holiday, May said: “For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door.”

“The threat to the United Kingdom from terrorism remains severe. I would urge the public to remain vigilant — but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year,” May said, adding, “The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed.”

The steel and concrete security barriers protecting Parliament were expanded in the wake of the rampage by Muslim convert Khalid Masood, also from Birmingham, who had ploughed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed to death an unarmed police officer outside the Houses of Parliament, leaving five people dead in March 2017.

Britain is on its second highest terror threat level of severe, which means an attack is highly likely.

London mayor said: “All Londoners, like me, utterly condemn all acts of terrorism on our city.”
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