Westminster Terrorist Attack
On March 22, a terrorist attack took place near the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament, in London. The attacker, Khalid Masood, deliberately drove a car into pedestrians along the pavement, injuring more than 50 people, three of them fatally, before he abandoned the car and ran into New Palace Yard where he fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer. Masood was eventually shot by an officer and died less than an hour later in the hospital.
Masood, born Adrian Russel Elms, was sentenced to prison in 2000 for grievous body harm and in 2003 for possession of an offensive weapon after another knife attack. In 2005, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Masood. Several media reports have suggested that Masood converted to Islam while in prison and became radicalized during his sentence, but police found no evidence to support such claims. In 2010, the MI5 started investigating Masood as a potential Islamist extremist due to his links with a group of Islamists who planned to bomb a Territorial Army base in Luton, but MI5 eventually decided that he did not pose a threat due to being a “peripheral” figure.
The Metropolitan Police said they believed the attacker was inspired by “international terrorism.” Describing Masood as a “terrorist,” the Metropolitan Police have announced that he was acting alone, adding that his methods echoed the rhetoric of Islamic State leaders, despite investigators not finding evidence of direct connection. Islamic State-associated Amaq News Agency announced that the attacker answered “calls to target citizens of coalition nations.”
Reactions to the attack often characterized it as an attack against liberty, freedom of speech, and democracy. The leaders of France, Germany, and the United States have offered the U.K. their support, with US President Donald Trump pledging the “full co-operation and support” of the US government in bringing those responsible for the attack to justice.
Some right-wing politicians suggest that controls on immigration – or even all Muslims – would be the right solution, even though the attacker was born in the U.K. Last September, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he believed terror attacks are “part and parcel of living in a big city” and major cities around the world “have got to be prepared for these sorts of things” to happen when they are least expected. In response, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “You have got to be kidding me?! Terror attacks are part of living in big city,” mischaracterizing Khan’s remarks as if terrorism was an inescapable fact of life. According to CNN, Khan has not responded to the tweet because he had “been doing far more important things.”
Prior to the attack, the U.K. Threat Level for terrorism in the country was listed at “severe,” meaning that an attack was “highly likely.” The last mass casualty terrorist attack on the mainland was the July 7 London bombings in 2005.