London Attacker Khalid Masood Had 20-Year Police Record – New York Times

Leer en españolBy KATRIN BENNHOLD, DAN BILEFSKY, STEPHEN CASTLE and KIMIKO de FREYTAS-TAMURAMarch 23, 2017BIRMINGHAM, England — A 52-year-old man with a long criminal record who been had been investigated for ties to violent extremism carried out the deadly attack outside the British Parliament, the authorities announced on Thursday, as the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault.Details about the man, Khalid Masood, a native of England who recently lived in the city of Birmingham, emerged as the government worked to project normalcy and calm nerves the day after the attack, which took the lives of a police officer, a British schoolteacher and an American tourist and injured more than 40 people. “Yesterday, an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy,” Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament, addressing colleagues who a day earlier had been placed on lockdown. “We are not afraid, and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism.” She called the violence “an attack on free people everywhere.”Parliament observed a minute of silence for the victims on Thursday morning, while crowds gathered at Trafalgar Square in the evening for a memorial vigil. Flags flew at half-staff above the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police and Parliament. Queen Elizabeth II expressed sympathy for the victims.At the United Nations, where the Security Council also observed a minute of silence, Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said, “The world is united to defeat the people who launched this attack and to defeat their bankrupt and odious ideology.” He added: “Our values are superior. Our view of the world is better and more generous and our will is stronger.”But even as the British capital returned fairly quickly to its daily rhythms, and as Parliament resumed business — starting with a debate on trade policy — police officers were trying to learn about Mr. Masood and whether they had missed signs of his radicalization.He was born on Dec. 25, 1964, in Kent, in southeastern England, and recently lived near Birmingham, historically known for its automotive industry and now home to many South Asian and Caribbean immigrants and their children. It was there, in the Spring Hill neighborhood, that Mr. Masood rented from an Enterprise branch the Hyundai Tucson that he used in the attack.Mr. Masood had a record of convictions, stretching from 1983 to 2003, for assault, weapons possession and violations of public order. But he was not the subject of any current investigation, and “there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack,” the London police said.In remarks to lawmakers, before the police identified Mr. Masood, Mrs. May said the attacker was “a peripheral figure” whom MI5, Britain’s domestic counterintelligence agency, had examined for links to violent extremism. She added that he was not “part of the current intelligence picture,” that “there was no prior evidence of his intent or of the plot” and that “our working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology.”The authorities emphasized that they thought the assailant had acted alone, and that they did not expect any further attacks; Mrs. May said the nation’s threat level would remain “severe,” meaning an attack was likely, and would not be raised to “critical,” which is used to signal an imminent attack.The authorities raided six properties across the country on Thursday, detaining eight people in London and in Birmingham. On Hagley Road, a commercial street in Birmingham, several people were arrested on Wednesday night in a raid on an apartment above a Persian restaurant. It was not clear what connection they had to Mr. Masood.“Birmingham is a city that historically has lots of issues and problems,” Raffaello Pantucci, the director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank, said in a phone interview.The city has a long history of connections with radicalism. It was home to Rashid Rauf, a liaison to Al Qaeda and a main suspect in a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners in 2006, who was killed in 2008 in an American airstrike in northern Pakistan. Last year, security services foiled a bomb plot in Birmingham, linked to extremists.Investigators have also looked into whether Abdelhamid Abbaoud, a ringleader of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, has spent time there. Mohamed Abrini, a suspect in the Paris attacks and another attack last March in Brussels, did; investigators found photos from Birmingham on his phone, Mr.Pantucci said.Roy Ramm, who spent nearly three decades in the Metropolitan Police and was the commander of specialist operations, said that British intelligence authorities would communicate with their international counterparts to establish whether the suspect was part of a network, and also to determine if he was on their radar at all, had left a travel footprint or was known to have associated with radical individuals.For years, the police have been able to keep close tabs on potential Islamist radicals and terrorists, including Anjem Choudary, one of the most outspoken and effective hate preachers in Britain. But such efforts have become more challenging in recent years, experts say.The Home Office made support for the Islamic State a criminal offense in June 2014, when Mrs. May was home secretary, and experts on radicalism said that drove many Islamist extremists underground.Mobeen Azhar, who has made several documentaries on Islamist radicalism in Britain and who knows Mr. Choudary, said that criminalizing support for the militant group had undoubtedly prevented some vulnerable young people from being influenced by radical propaganda. But he said the networks had also become more careful, to avoid detection.“It used to be that radicals in London would meet in church halls or at takeaways in East London, or set up stalls in parks,” Mr. Azhar said. “Now these networks meet in white vans and spaces not known to police and have gone more underground, making them more difficult to track.”On Thursday morning, the Islamic State issued a statement on the messaging app Telegram, declaring that the attacker was a “soldier” who “carried out the operation in response to appeals” to fight Western powers involved in military operations in the Middle East. The terrorist group has called for attacks on Britain, and Mr. Masood’s assault was reminiscent of attacks in France and Germany that were carried out with vehicles. A man tried to drive into a crowd in Antwerp, Belgium, on Thursday but was stopped.Officials on Thursday reduced the death toll from the London attack to four from five, including Mr. Masood. He used the rented vehicle to mow down scores of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two of them: Kurt W. Cochran, an American tourist in his 50s, and Aysha Frade, 43, a British teacher. He then proceeded on foot to the gates of Parliament, where he fatally stabbed a police constable, Keith Palmer, 48, before being shot dead by the police.Consistent with the multicultural character of London, the victims of the attack also included 12 Britons, five South Koreans, three French schoolchildren, two Greeks, two Romanians, and one citizen each from China, Germany, Ireland and Italy.An area outside Parliament remained a large crime scene on Thursday; television video showed police officers examining the pavement stones outside Parliament for clues.Inside, shaken lawmakers recalled an unsettling day.Nigel Evans, a Conservative lawmaker, had just voted on Wednesday afternoon when a colleague rushed up to him, asking anxiously if he had seen Mrs. May. The attack had begun, and a fellow lawmaker, Tobias Ellwood, had tried in vain to resuscitate Constable Palmer.Worrying about possible additional attackers, security officers began searching frantically for other intruders, and lawmakers and their staff did their best to keep out of the way. “The last thing they wanted was us running around the place,” Mr. Evans said.A young parliamentary researcher found himself in the wrong place and was swiftly challenged. “He had his hands in the air and was walking, slowly, up to members of a SWAT team with submachine guns,” Mr. Evans recalled.Specialist officers, some wearing black balaclavas, began to move through the building, securing each room, breaking down at least one door on the way.The Palace of Westminster, which includes the Houses of Parliament, is made up of a bewildering warren of corridors, and the work of ensuring that it was clear of assailants took time. A group of visiting schoolchildren — some in tears — were among those caught up in the confusion.For hours, lawmakers were confined to specific areas, where they were given water and in some cases sandwiches. But what some lacked most of all was the power to communicate, and to check that their staff was safe. Very few had chargers for their cellphones, and those who did sought power sockets. Some waited for a traditional phone line in one of the offices close to the chamber.Over all, the atmosphere was one of calm and cooperation, however. “People appreciated the gravity of the situation,” Mr. Evans said.That may have been partly because an attack of this type was not completely unexpected. Security has been noticeably tightened in Parliament in recent years, with large barriers being placed in front of parts of the building to ward off the threat of a truck bomb. Police with submachine guns patrol the Parliament grounds routinely.But the complex is by a busy street, and some lawmakers still wonder whether some of the security was designed with the idea of fending off the type of attacks once mounted by the Irish Republican Army, which in 1979 assassinated a Conservative lawmaker, Airey Neave, using a car bomb in Parliament.“I am shocked, but I am not surprised,” Chris Bryant, a Labour lawmaker, said of the latest attack. “We have always known that a marauding attack by an individual would be the most difficult to prevent.”Mr. Bryant said that security would have to be reviewed in line with the normal protocols but that no parliamentary building could be 100 percent secure. Lawmakers live with threats to their safety — Mr. Bryant says police are investigating several against him — and some feel safer in Parliament than in their constituencies.The risk in less well protected locations was underscored last year with the assassination of Jo Cox, a Labour lawmaker, in her district in northern England.On Thursday, with tightened security, lawmakers crowded into the parliamentary chamber determined to show that they would not be deterred from their job. Ed Miliband, a former leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the mood had been one of “shock and determination and also admiration for the job that the security people are doing.”“I think we are seeing people’s increased determination to carry on with their normal business,” he said.Mr. Bryant said he understands that security needs to be reviewed but does not want to make Parliament into a fortress, with lawmakers hidden from their voters behind new barricades. “It is an iconic building,” he said. “You couldn’t get a building more iconic of Western democracy, but being an old building, it poses challenges of its own.”Mrs. May said that life would go on and that the country must not cave into terrorism, and Londoners seemed to be taking the attacks in stride.“As I was coming in through the tube, I noticed there was a great air of calm,” said Elizabeth Sweeney, 57, referring to the British subway. “That was the overriding sense that I had, first thing.”After the recent bloody attacks in Brussels and Paris, many Londoners had felt that an attack in their city was inevitable. “We do have a tendency to just get on with it,” said Meredith O’Shaughnessy, 38, an event planner. “It takes a lot to shake a Londoner.”Follow Katrin Bennhold @kbennhold, Dan Bilefsky @DanBilefsky, Stephen Castle @_StephenCastle and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura @kimidefreytas on Twitter.Katrin Bennhold and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura reported from Birmingham, and Dan Bilefsky and Stephen Castle from London. Reporting was contributed by Sewell Chan, Iliana Magra, Prashant S. Rao and Amie Tsang from London; Benoît Morenne from Paris; Rukmini Callimachi from Los Angeles; Eric Schmitt from Washington; and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations. We’re interested in your feedback on this page. Tell us what you think. Ideas. Ignited. Get 50% off for one year.*Home delivery price based on Sunday delivery.Prices vary based on delivery location and frequency. Ideas. Ignited. Get 50% off for one year.only $3.75 $1.88/weekSubscribe Now
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