NEWS
15/08/2018 09:00 BST | Updated 15/08/2018 19:26 BST

Westminster Terror Suspect Salih Khater Held For Attempted Murder

The 29-year-old is of Sudanese origin.

The driver in yesterday’s suspected terror attack outside parliament in Westminster has been named as British citizen Salih Khater.

Scotland Yard also confirmed the 29-year-old is a UK national originally from Sudan. He is thought to live in the Sparkbrook district of Birmingham.  

Khater was known to the police, but did not feature on any terror or security services watch list. As of Wednesday, he remained in police custody after his arrest on suspicion of preparing an act of terror. He was also subsequently further arrested for attempted murder and police were granted a warrant to further detain him until Monday.

The privately-owned silver Ford Fiesta, registration FL10 CWZ, used in the attack was driven from Birmingham to London late on Monday and spent almost five hours in the Tottenham Court Road area.

It was then driven around the Westminster area for more than 90 minutes before it crashed into a security barrier just before 7.40am on Tuesday.

Rex Features
Salih Khater has been named as the driver in yesterday's suspected terror attack 
PA Wire/PA Images
Forensic officers by the car that crashed into security barriers

Counter-terrorism officers have since concluded searches at two addresses in Birmingham, a residential property in Nottingham and continue to search a third in Birmingham as part of their investigation.

Plain-clothed police officers could be seen outside an address in Peveril Street, Nottingham, on Tuesday evening, said by neighbours to be home to six Sudanese people.

A customer at the Bunna Internet Cafe in Birmingham said he had been served coffee by Khater, who he said was a polite and apparently humble man.

The cafe-goer, who would only give his name as Adam, said: “I am still in shock. I’ve known him for about a year and he is a very, very good man.

“I can’t see him doing anything stupid.

“He was polite, humble and he kept himself to himself. The whole community is upset. I can’t see it not being an accident – I couldn’t see him hurting a fly, never mind a human being.”

A police search is thought to have taken place about a mile from the cafe, at the tower block in the Highgate area of Birmingham, where a plain clothes officer prevented reporters from entering the tenth-floor landing.

Birmingham Central Mosque said members of the local community believed Khater may have travelled to London for an appointment to obtain a visa to travel to Sudan.

Speaking at a press conference, trustee Nassar Mahmood said inquiries in the local Sudanese community suggested Khater did not worship at the mosque and had shown no signs of radicalisation.

Mahmood said: “Like the rest of the community of the UK, the people of Birmingham and the Birmingham Central Mosque are surprised, shocked and saddened by the incident at Westminster.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people who have been injured.”

Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism head Neil Basu said on Tuesday that the apparent deliberate nature of the act, the method used and the “iconic” location of Parliament led the force to treat it as a terrorist incident.

Footage aired on BBC News showed the car’s approach towards Parliament, where it crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with cyclists before entering a small road and crashing into a security barrier.

Three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were treated at the scene, with a man and a woman taken to hospital but discharged by Tuesday evening.

Images posted online showed a man wearing a black puffer jacket being led away in handcuffs from the car as armed police swarmed the scene.

There was nobody else in the vehicle and no weapons were found, police said.

Basu added no other suspects have been identified and there is “no intelligence at this time of further danger” to Londoners. Scotland Yard said the priority of the investigation team continues to be to understand the motivation behind the incident.

The car was removed from the scene late on Tuesday night and all cordons in the Westminster area have now been lifted. 

After a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, Theresa May urged the country to come together and carry on as normal.

In a statement the Prime Minister, who is on holiday, praised the “formidable courage” and professionalism of the emergency services who “ran towards” danger.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who also thanked the emergency services, urged people to “keep an open mind” about the incident.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter: “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

Witnesses described an emotionless driver ploughing through cyclists in what appeared to be a deliberate act.

Kirsty Moseley, of Brixton, was a passenger in the first car behind the cyclists, who “were thrown everywhere” after being struck at what she estimated was 25mph.

Moseley, 31, added: “He (the driver) wasn’t shouting anything, he wasn’t screaming, he didn’t look crazed or out of control – he was just deadpan.”

The Houses of Parliament are surrounded with security barriers of steel and concrete, measures which were extended after an attack in March 2017 when Khalid Masood ploughed a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge, killing four people.

Masood abandoned his car then fatally stabbed unarmed PC Keith Palmer before he was shot by armed police in a courtyard outside Parliament.

The terrorist threat against the UK is seen as unprecedented. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there were 676 live investigations being carried out by the security services and counter-terror police at the end of June, up from more than 500 in March.

Some 13 Islamist plots and four by far-right extremists have been foiled in the past 18 months, he added.

There are roughly 3,000 active “subjects of interest” at any one time – while there is also a wider pool of more than 20,000 individuals who have featured in probes whose threat must be kept under review.