Police Identify Suspect In Deadly London Attack

Mar 23, 2017
Originally published on March 23, 2017 9:21 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

To London now where police have identified the man who staged an attack outside Britain's Parliament yesterday. He plowed through pedestrians in an SUV and stabbing a police officer. He is 52-year-old British-born Khalid Masood. Five people including Masood died in the attack, and at least 30 were injured. NPR's Frank Langfitt is in London, and he joins us now. And Frank, what do we know about Khalid Masood?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, there's some details. It's a bit sketchy. He was born in southeast - in the southeast of England in Kent, lived in the - most recently they think in the West Midlands - that's about an hour and a half northwest by train from London - had previous convictions for assault and weapons possession. His last conviction was all the way back in 2003 for possession of a knife. Police said - this is pretty interesting - was not the subject of any current investigation. There was no prior intelligence he was planning this attack, and he'd never been convicted of a terrorism-related offense.

MCEVERS: Do you get the sense that he was well-known in Islamist circles? And what about the fact that he's older than the typical attacker?

LANGFITT: Well, this is a question a lot of people had today, and I put these questions to a guy named Rashad Ali. He works on de-radicalization and counterterrorism. He's a senior resident fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. It's a think tank here in London. And here's a bit of our exchange.

What did you think when you heard his age?

RASHAD ALI: I think it's an outlier. But there have been other individuals that are older than the usual spectrum of kind of between 15 and 29 for terrorism-act-related offenses.

LANGFITT: And had you heard of this man?

ALI: I hadn't heard of this man. I mean the only conversations I've had with the security services are that he hasn't been somebody that's been on their radars. And as a suspect as such, he's been peripherally on their radar, which means they're aware of him but not somebody who they believed needed to be significantly perceived.

MCEVERS: OK, so he was not someone police were closely watching. How are they investigating this crime?

LANGFITT: Well, it's interesting, Kelly. You know, they say Masood acted alone, but they've conducted raids across the country. There was a raid in London where they arrested a woman here in east London on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts. There was also raids in the English coastal city of Brighton and up in Birmingham. Birmingham is Britain's second-largest city. It's in the West Midlands where Masood was thought to have lived recently, and there were six arrests up there in Birmingham.

MCEVERS: And what do we know at this point about the victims? We know one of those who was killed was an American. Is that right?

LANGFITT: Yeah, that's true, an American tourist from Utah. His name was Kurt Cochran, 54 years old. He was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Melissa. She was seriously injured on the bridge. Among the others who were injured - three French schoolchildren, citizens from China, Ireland and Greece. This of course - Westminster Bridge, as many will know, is next to Big Ben. This is the epicenter of tourism in London. And the United Kingdom's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson - he was speaking at the United Nations today, and here's how he put it.

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BORIS JOHNSON: Today there are victims in London from 11 nations, which goes to show that an attack on London is an attack on the world. The world is uniting to defeat the people who launched this attack and to defeat their bankrupt and odious ideology.

LANGFITT: So you know, Kelly, London truly is a global city, and so this attack has affected lives and families really across the world.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you so much, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Kelly.

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