Friday, 24 March 2017

London terror attack: Westminster attacker identified as ISIS claims responsibility

Probe into London attack widens
Eight nabbed in raids at six places; attacker identified even as ISIS claims responsibility
By Tan Dawn Wei, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Mar 2017

British police have raided at least six addresses in various parts of Britain and arrested as many as eight people, after a lone attacker launched an assault in the heart of the British capital.

The attack on Wednesday afternoon outside the Houses of Parliament killed four, including the assailant, and injured 40, with seven still in critical condition.

As intense investigations continued, police late yesterday named the assailant as Khalid Masood, 52. He was born in Kent and detectives believe he was most recently living in the West Midlands.

Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament that he was British-born, was believed to have acted alone and was known to the intelligence services. He was once investigated a few years ago over "concerns about violent extremism", Mrs May told lawmakers.

"He was a peripheral figure... He is not part of the current intelligence picture," she said, adding that police are working on the assumption that he was inspired by Islamist ideology.

Yesterday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, calling the perpetrator "an Islamic State soldier".

The attack took place as world leaders met in Washington to discuss how to deal with ISIS; it also coincided with the first anniversary of the Brussels bombings, which were claimed by ISIS.

Pedestrians on Westminster Bridge were mowed down by a speeding SUV on Wednesday afternoon, which left a trail of bloodied bodies on the ground. A Romanian tourist fell into the Thames and was rescued with serious injuries.

The lone attacker crashed his car into a railing outside the Parliament compound, then tried to enter the grounds, stabbing a policeman to death before being shot.

The authorities immediately stepped up policing on the streets and around transport hubs, including airports, even as they urgently reviewed security arrangements around the Parliament area. The review will most likely focus on the Carriage Gates entrance, which was used by the attacker.

Parliament went into immediate lockdown after the attack, with lawmakers holed up in chambers for hours as part of security protocol.

Meanwhile, in what looked like a copycat ploy thwarted by Belgian police yesterday, a Frenchman armed with a rifle and bladed weapons unsuccessfully tried to ram his car into a crowd in the port city of Antwerp.

Last night, Londoners held a candelight vigil at Trafalgar Square in remembrance of the victims of the terror blitz - Spanish teacher Aysha Frade, 43; American tourist Kurt Cochran, 54; and slain policeman Keith Palmer, 48.

Condolences poured in from leaders around the world, vowing solidarity in the face of terror.

Both President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote to Queen Elizabeth II and Mrs May respectively. "Singapore strongly condemns this attack, and stands in solidarity with the United Kingdom against such acts that attempt to incite fear, create divisions and disrupt our lives," wrote Mr Lee, who is in Vietnam on a four-day official visit.

Londoners were determined to get on with their daily lives, even as the Union Jack flew at half-mast outside the Palace of Westminster yesterday. Lawmakers returned to the crime scene where a parliamentary session resumed in the morning. Tourist attractions in the vicinity such as the London Eye soon reopened for business, as did the Westminster Bridge crossing.

Inside the chamber hall, Mrs May struck a defiant tone in her address to MPs, who turned out in full force.

"Today we meet as normal - as generations have done before us, and as future generations will continue to do - to deliver a simple message: We are not afraid. And our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism," she said.

MP tried to save cop's life; ordinary people rushed to help others
The Straits Times, 24 Mar 2017

LONDON • Although politicians had been told to shelter in place inside the Parliament building as terror unfolded outside, MP Tobias Ellwood raced to the scene of the carnage to find diplomatic protection officer Keith Palmer at the gates of New Palace Yard, bleeding from multiple stab wounds.

The MP's military training kicked in. Witnesses watched Mr Ellwood apply pressure to the wounds of Mr Palmer, 48, to stop the bleeding and give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Mr Ellwood knew what was at stake; his brother had been killed in 2002 in the nightclub bombing in Bali. So he kept trying to revive Mr Palmer.

When an air ambulance landed and medical staff rushed to take over, he walked away with blood on his hands and face.

Yesterday, Mr Ellwood was one of the heroes praised as the world's oldest Parliament reacted with defiance and emotional tributes in the wake of Wednesday's bloodshed. British Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that she spoke to Mr Ellwood after the attack and praised his "huge professionalism". Reuters reported that Mr Ellwood, leaning against a row of seats at the back of Parliament, nodded in acknowledgement at a stream of tributes.

"I was on the scene and, as soon as I realised what was going on, I headed towards it," Mr Ellwood, 50, said in comments reported by the Times newspaper.

Others coming in for praise were members of the emergency services and ordinary people who rushed to help. They included doctors and nurses from nearby St Thomas' Hospital who ran to help those injured when the attacker drove his SUV into people on Westminster Bridge.

The BBC reported that Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, chairman of the junior doctors' committee at the British Medical Association, had been talking to one of its regional teams at the time.

"I heard the screaming and ran to help," Reuters reported him as saying. "We gave the officer cardiac massage... We did everything we could, in terms of basic life support and starting to triage injured people at the scene."

Mr Tony Davis, a boxing coach and army veteran, was another who rushed to Mr Palmer's aid.

"I put my raincoat underneath to try to stem the blood," he told ITV's This Morning. "Three and a half minutes was when the MP came in and sort of took over CPR. The MP did a tremendous job, everyone there did. I can't commend the air doctor enough. Very professional, very thorough. It was a great show of solidarity."

Political campaigner Richard Tice, who witnessed the attack, said the way people on the bridge helped the injured showed the character of the city.

"The whole length of the bridge there were passers-by tending to the injured before the medics arrived. That's the spirit of London," the BBC reported him saying.

"I'm sure that would happen in any city. But that is the bravery and care one human has for another."

Singapore leaders condemn attack
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Mar 2017

Singapore's leaders yesterday expressed shock, sadness and solidarity with Britain over Wednesday's terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London. President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong condemned the attack as vicious and horrific.

A lone assailant had killed three people, including a policeman, and injured 40 before being shot dead as he tried to enter Parliament.

In a letter to Queen Elizabeth II, Dr Tan said: "On behalf of the people of Singapore, I convey our deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, and whose lives have been affected by this horrific incident. We wish those injured a speedy recovery."

Mr Lee, who is on an official visit to Vietnam, said in a letter to his British counterpart Theresa May: "Singapore strongly condemns this attack, and stands in solidarity with the United Kingdom against such acts that attempt to incite fear, create divisions and disrupt our lives. I am confident that the British people will overcome this challenging period with dignity and fortitude."

Other ministers reminded Singaporeans of the need to stay vigilant in the face of the global terror threat.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that the "cruel and calculated attack" was "clearly aimed at striking at the heart of British democracy and the British way of life".

The British-born assailant had driven into pedestrians on the busy Westminster Bridge before trying to enter Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said in separate Facebook posts that unity is key in countering extremism and the terror groups that seek to divide.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said Londoners' calm and determined response to the attack was an inspiring testimony to the strength of their society.

Yesterday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) also issued a statement on the attack.

Ustaz Irwan Hadi, assistant director in the Office of the Mufti and Asatizah Development at Muis, said: "We deplore the loss of innocent lives caused by shocking violence, which has no place in any community."

He urged all communities to rally together and remain vigilant against not just the acts, but the ideas behind them that threaten the fabric of society.

"Our strongest defence against such threats is to maintain our bonds of humanity and shared values. Let us build on our mutual respect, trust, compassion and continuous engagement with each other," he added.

No comments:

Post a Comment