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!”

 

 


Fear and fanfare as Hong Kong launches China rail link

A passenger takes a selfie next to the first train of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Linkas after it arrived in Shenzhen on September 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Fear and fanfare as Hong Kong launches China rail link

  • Critics say the railway is a symbol of continuing Chinese assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of widespread autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s controversial bullet train got off to a smooth start on Sunday, as hundreds of passengers whistled north across the border at speeds of up to 200 kph (125 mph), deepening integration of the former British colony with mainland China.
While the $11 billion rail project has raised fears for some over Beijing’s encroachment on the Chinese-ruled city’s cherished freedoms, passengers at the sleek harborfront station were full of praise for a service that reaches mainland China in less than 20 minutes.
“Out of 10 points, I give it nine,” said 10-year-old Ng Kwan-lap, who was traveling with his parents on the first train leaving for Shenzhen at 7 a.m.
“The train is great. It’s very smooth when it hits speeds of 200 kilometers per hour.”
Mainland Chinese immigration officers are stationed in one part of the modernist station that is subject to Chinese law, an unprecedented move that some critics say further erodes the city’s autonomy.
The project is part of a broader effort by Beijing to fuse the city into a vast hinterland of the Pearl River Delta including nine Chinese cities dubbed the Greater Bay Area.
Beijing wants the Greater Bay Area, home to some 68 million people with a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion, to foster economic integration and better meld people, goods and sectors across the region.
Critics say the railway is a symbol of continuing Chinese assimilation of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees of widespread autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system.
But at a ceremony on Saturday ahead of the public opening, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam praised the so-called “co-location” arrangement with Beijing which the government has said is necessary to streamline immigration.
Scores of excited passengers straddled a yellow strip across black tiles that highlighted the demarcation line between Hong Kong and mainland China, while others passed through turnstiles surrounded by red, orange and white balloons.
“I’m excited to experience the high-speed train, even more excited than when I take a plane,” said a 71-year-old retiree surnamed Leung.
While there have been questions over whether Hong Kong residents would be able to access foreign social media, largely banned in mainland China, in zones subject to Chinese law, some passengers arriving in Shenzhen, on the mainland side, were able to bypass China’s so-called Great Firewall.
The rail link provides direct access to China’s massive 25,000-km national high-speed rail network and authorities on both sides have hailed it as a breakthrough that will bring economic benefits, including increased tourism.
“No matter what you think about the new line, high-speed rail is extremely convenient,” said Feng Yan, assistant professor at the Communication University of China in Beijing who took the bullet train from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
“Even if it takes some time for people to realize how convenient it is, sooner or later they will.”