London police questioning suspect in Westminster 'terrorist' incident

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Forensic investigators work at the site after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, August 14, 2018. (Reuters)
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Three people were injured when a Ford Fiesta crashed into barriers outside Parliament. (Reuters)
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Armed police stand in the street after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. (Reuters)
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The man arrested at the scene is “not currently cooperating” with police. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2018
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London police questioning suspect in Westminster 'terrorist' incident

  • Authorities said in a statement Tuesday that a man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences
  • US President Trump calls for tough action to be taken against London attackers

LONDON: British counter-terrorism police carried out three searches in central England on Tuesday evening as part of an investigation after a car slammed into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London on morning.

Police say the driver, a 29-year-old UK national, has been arrested on suspicion of “preparing a terrorist act.”

Three people were hurt in the incident.

The suspect is being questioned at a south London police station, having previously refused to cooperate with officers immediately after his arrest.

 

The Metropolitan Police said a silver Fiesta, which was privately owned, travelled from Birmingham to London late on Monday night. It was then driven around the Westminster and Whitehall area from approximately 6am until the crash at 7:37am.

Police say there have been no other arrests in connection with this investigation.

Britain's government decided to keep its threat level for terrorism at severe after the incident. The decision not to elevate the threat level followed a meeting of the government's emergency COBRA committee on Tuesday. 

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement that no other suspects have been identified and police believe there is no further threat to Londoners.

Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with those injured, and she urged the country to come together and carry on as normal, even as she urged the public to "remain vigilant.”

British authorities say they have foiled 13 extremist plots and four far-right plots since March 2017, and currently have 676 live counterterrorism investigations.

The Metropolitan Police said cordons that had sealed off much of London's Westminster government district had been lifted, after forensics officers in coveralls finished collecting evidence from the car.

 

Chris Phillips, a former senior police officer with expertise in counter-terrorism, told Arab News: “The worry is that we start seeing these types of attack as being normal. Because that blinds us to the myriad of other types of attack open to terrorists. 

“This appears to be a copy cat-type incident. But there might be more to it, time will tell. It certainly appears to be a poor attempt, thank goodness.

He added: “(These types of attacks are) impossible to predict, impossible to stop completely but it is possible to make iconic sites more difficult to attack.”

And Adrian James, reader in police studies at Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies, Liverpool John Moores University, warned that potential acts of terror do not require “sophisticated means” in urban areas.

Speaking to Arab News, James said: “We need to be cautious about attributing motive but certainly eye-witness reports suggest that this was a deliberate act. Previous terrorist attacks have utilised vehicles in a similar way.

“If indeed it is an act of terrorism, as much as anything it demonstrates that in an urban environment a motivated offender can easily find the means to achieve their purpose. One doesn’t necessarily need sophisticated means to achieve it. 

“Intelligence is key to preventing these attacks but the police have only finite resources and in a truly democratic society there are limits to the extent to which police intelligence gathering activities are considered legitimate. Intelligence ‘failure’ though always regrettable is inevitable."

US President Donald Trump tweeted about the incident on Tuesday, saying: “Another terrorist attack in London. These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

 

 


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.