Police Make Arrests In Connection To London Attack

Mar 23, 2017
Originally published on March 23, 2017 7:56 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her nation will never bow to terror. She said that after yesterday's attack on the seat of British political power. ISIS has claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack, although its actual involvement is not confirmed. Speaking today in the House of Commons, Prime Minister May provided more details on who the attacker was.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: The man was British-born, and some years ago, he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. There was no prior intelligence of his intent or of the plot. Intensive investigations continue. And as acting deputy commissioner Rowley confirmed last night, our working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology.

INSKEEP: Lots of information there, and that's the beginning of our discussion with NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, first, significant that she says he's British-born. There's so much discussion about refugees and people moving around from country to country - a British-born person, and it sounds like someone who was already at least on the edge of the radar of British authorities.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yes. And right now, since this happened yesterday afternoon, police have already raided six properties. They've made eight arrests in this case. There were raids here in London, also around the country, including the English midland city of Birmingham. BBC is reporting that the SUV that was used in the attack on the bridge was rented just outside of Birmingham. And there - late-night raid there with a number of cops, and they led about three people away. There are no further threats of attack according to the prime minister, so the threat level has not gone up. And on the condition of the victims who were injured on the bridge, seven remain in critical condition.

INSKEEP: And just a reminder here of how much we don't know, we have authorities who say the man acted alone and that they've made a number of other arrests. We don't actually know how to resolve that contradiction at this point, do we?

LANGFITT: No, we don't.

INSKEEP: OK, so what's it like to be in London today, Frank Langfitt?

LANGFITT: Well, it's interesting. I went down to the south bank of the Thames and was looking out on Westminster Bridge. It was empty except for a police van. But a lot of people were going to work the way they always do. This is a city that has faced attacks before. Just a number of years ago, there was a soldier who was almost decapitated by al-Qaida-inspired terrorists. And on the way home last night, I was speaking with a woman named Amelia Goodwin (ph). She - we were on the train back to the suburbs. She's a 25-year-old lawyer, and she was, of course, shocked by all of this, but - and very upset because she knows the area very well, as everyone does. And we had a kind of a pretty revealing exchange. Here's what she said.

AMELIA GOODWIN: London feels quieter almost tonight, and it's a bit scarier. It feels more real now 'cause obviously we've seen the - everything that's happened in France and all the other countries, and now it just seems more real that it's kind of hit home.

LANGFITT: Were you anticipating something like this?

GOODWIN: Yes, I think 'cause obviously the threat level's been so high for so long, everyone kept saying that something was going to happen sooner rather than later.

LANGFITT: Do you think this will have a lasting effect, or do you think things will go back to normal?

GOODWIN: I think it will go back to normal quite quickly. We'll see - London is quite resilient. Everyone kind of joins forces and gets on with it.

INSKEEP: London resident keeping calm, carrying on, talking with NPR's Frank Langfitt, who's still on the line. Frank, one other question - does this attack fit any kind of pattern?

LANGFITT: A little bit, Steve. This reminds me of something that we covered actually about a month ago. There was a man named Ronald Fiddler. He was from Manchester. He's British-born also. He went to Afghanistan during the war, was picked up and put in Guantanamo, eventually was released, I believe in 2010. And then later, he left for Syria. MI5, I believe - security services here - were following him but kind of lost track. He ended up in Iraq, and he was the driver of a car bomb and appeared in a video. And this was last month. He detonated the car bomb in Syria - excuse me - Iraq against Iraqi military.

INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, thanks very much.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.