British media say crash suspect is Briton of Sudanese origin

0
480
Forensics officers work near the car that crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Forensics officers work near the car that crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

London (AP) — British authorities said Wednesday they are considering turning the area around Parliament into a pedestrian zone to prevent future vehicle attacks as police searched three properties for clues about the motivation of a man who plowed a car into cyclists and pedestrians, injuring three.

Local media on Wednesday identified the suspect as Salih Khater, a 29-year-old British citizen of Sudanese origin. Police searched the suspect’s apartment in the central England city of Birmingham, as well as another property in the city and a third in Nottingham, about 50 miles away.

A Facebook page for a man of the same name says he lives in Birmingham, works as a shop manager, and has studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology. Coventry University in central England said Khater had studied accounting there between September 2017 and May 2018 but was no longer enrolled.

Ahmed Abdi, a neighbor of Khater in Birmingham, said he recognized him from news footage, “and I was shocked.”

“He was very, very quiet and he never spoke to anybody. He would say nothing to nobody,” Abdi said.

British authorities do not name suspects until they are formally charged. London’s Metropolitan Police force said the suspect was not known to counterterrorism officers or the intelligence services.

The suspect was being held at a London police station as detectives traced the movements of the Ford Fiesta which careered across a road, hitting cyclists and pedestrians, then crashed into a security barrier at Parliament. Three people were injured, but none remains in hospital.

Detectives say the car was driven from Birmingham to London late Monday, and drove around the area near Parliament for an hour and a half on Tuesday morning before the rush-hour crash.

The incident appears to be the second in less than 18 months in which a vehicle has been used to attack the heart of Britain’s government. Over the past two decades authorities have tightened security around Parliament with fences, crash barriers and armed police.

Now the rise of vehicle attacks around the world is triggering calls for traffic to be barred from Parliament Square, currently a busy traffic route.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that the plan presented challenges, but “it’s possible to have a design solution that meets the objectives … in relation to keeping our buildings and our people as safe as we can do, but also not losing what’s wonderful about our city which is a vibrant democracy.”