UK Parliament attack accused planning to travel to Sudan

Salih Khater drove to London the night before the car he was driving collided with a security barrier outside the UK parliament. (Facebook)
Updated 15 August 2018

UK Parliament attack accused planning to travel to Sudan

  • Police arrested a 29-year-old man after he appeared to drive his car at cyclists and pedestrians before ramming his car into barriers
  • Counter-terror detectives are working to uncover the motive behind the attack

LONDON: The British man accused of a terror attack after driving into a barrier protecting the Houses of Parliament was of Sudanese origin who came to the UK as a refugee.

Salih Khater, 29, will be investigated for attempted murder, British police said on Wednesday, along with the initial arrest for terrorism offences.

Khater drove over a pavement and into cyclists before crashing into the barrier on Tuesday morning. Two of the injured victims - a man and a woman - were taken to hospital but have been discharged. The third was treated at the scene.

Khater had recently dropped out of an accountancy course at Coventry University and lost a brother and his father. 

His brother described him to the BBC as a “normal person” with no fanatical ideas, and no links to any religious group.

Abdullah Khater also said his family - originally from Darfur in Sudan - was in “a state of shock.” 

The BBC reported that Khater came to the UK as a refugee in 2010 and was granted asylum. He successfully applied for UK citizenship in the past two years.

Khater had driven down to London from his home city of Birmingham on Monday night to get a Sudanese visa to visit his family. The Sudan embassy is near St James’s Park, less than a mile from the attack site.

In Birmingham, police searched two addresses on Tuesday and were at a third address on Wednesday. Another location in nearby Nottingham was also searched.

The attack has shaken the UK capital due to the similarities with another attack last year, when Khalid Masood drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing outside parliament. 

Five people were killed including a police officer stabbed by the attacker after he crashed and ran inside parliament. Masood, who was shot dead by police, also lived in Birmingham.

The UK’s top counter-terrorism officer, Neil Basu, said the suspect was not believed to be known to intelligence agencies, but UK media reported he was known to police.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office warned of the “severe” terror threat facing Britain, saying that by the end of June there were 676 live investigations into suspected terrorist plots.

Her spokesman said the current terrorist threat was “one of the starkest we have faced.”

Amid the terror concerns, more details emerged on Wednesday about Khater, who works as a shop manager and had studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology, according to his Facebook page.

Abubakr Ibrahim, a childhood friend, told The Times newspaper: “He is not a terrorist. I have known him since childhood. He is a good man.”

He said Khater was the son of sorghum farmers, and had moved to Britain about five years ago in order to earn money to help his family.

A spokesman for Coventry University in central England confirmed Khater began studying accountancy there in September, but dropped out in May.

One of the places police have visited is an internet cafe in Birmingham, where Khater regularly visited, AFP reported.

The cafe owner said Khater lived in a flat above the parade of shops where it was located, but moved out a few months ago.

Local resident Ahmed Abdi, who is originally from Somalia, said he was “shocked” to see Khater's picture in the news.

“He was around here almost every day and I was here yesterday when the police turned up,” he said.

“He was very, very quiet and he never spoke to anybody.”

Police believe the car involved in the attack, a silver Ford Fiesta, drove around the Tottenham Court Road area - near Oxford Street - from around 1.25am before heading to the area around parliament around 6am.

The car crashed into the barrier at around 7.30am. The security barrier is one of many erected on key British sites after the September 11 attacks in the US in 2001, and reinforced in recent years.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he backed the idea of banning vehicles from some areas around parliament.

“I've been an advocate for a while now of part-pedestrianising Parliament Square,” he told BBC radio.

But he warned any changes must not lose “the wonderful thing about our democracy which is people having access to parliamentarians, people being able to lobby Parliament, visitors being able to come and visit.”

Parts of US Midwest deluged in historic deadly floods

Horses that were being boarded in Inglewood, Neb., are moved through floodwaters to higher ground in Fremont Neb., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 12 min 4 sec ago

Parts of US Midwest deluged in historic deadly floods

  • Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents

CHICAGO: The US Midwest struggled Monday with historic flooding that claimed at least three lives, displaced residents and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
Swollen waters hit much of Nebraska, as well as parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, after a major storm last week dumped snow and rain, even as melting snow was already raising the levels of area waterways.
Neighboring states could also be affected as floodwaters drain, officials said.
President Donald Trump on Monday described the floods as “devastating” and said the White House would remain in close contact with state officials.
“Our prayers are with the great people of South Dakota,” he said in one tweet.
In another aimed at Iowa residents, he said: “We support you and thank all of the first responders working long hours to help the great people of Iowa!“

The National Weather Service (NWS) described the flooding as “major” and “historic,” forecasting that it would continue across large sections of the middle of the country.
“Flood Warnings and Adviseries are scattered throughout the Plains, Mississippi Valley, and western parts of the Ohio Valley region, with a focus in Nebraska and western Iowa,” the NWS said in an advisory.
“Farther west and north, areal flooding is also possible in the Northwest and Northern Plains as snowmelt continues over frozen ground.”
The early damage assessment total for the state of Nebraska was more than $260 million, according to emergency management officials.
Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents.
At its highest point, the Missouri River was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.5 meters), beating its 2011 record by more than one foot.
“Comparisons to 2011 were inevitable,” the NWS office in Iowa tweeted, “but these floods have resulted in many more rescues and widespread damage in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.”
Failing levees were blamed for flooding in numerous communities — damaging homes and businesses.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains federal levee systems, said a majority were compromised along an approximately 100-mile portion of the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska.

Hundreds of people were rescued in Nebraska, where 54 cities issued emergency declarations, as did four Native American tribal areas.
Fremont, a city of more than 25,000, was surrounded by floodwaters over the weekend and cut off from aid.
It finally received food and other emergency supplies Sunday after crews managed to clear debris and mud from a road, officials said.
Three dozen Iowa counties were under states of emergency.
Roads were closed throughout Wisconsin and more than 200 people were evacuated, according to officials.
A third of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was overcome with floodwater, and was not expected to be dry again until Thursday.
“It’s important to understand that this is going to take weeks and months to recover so this will be a prolonged effort,” one of the base’s leaders, Kevin Humphrey, said in a statement.
Three people were reported killed.
A Nebraska farmer died Thursday, during the height of the storm, trying to rescue a motorist stranded by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
On the same day, 80-year-old Betty Hamernik died after being trapped by floodwaters in her home in rural Columbus, Nebraska, according to the newspaper.
Aleido Rojas Galan, 55, was killed Friday in Iowa when his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, TV station KETV said.