London attacker Khalid Masood was a
52-year-old criminal with militant links
Send a link to a friend
[March 24, 2017]
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) -
Before he killed at least four people in Britain's deadliest attack
since the 2005 London bombings, Khalid Masood was considered by
intelligence officers to be a criminal who posed little serious threat.
A British-born Muslim convert, Masood had shown up on the periphery of
previous terrorism investigations that brought him to the attention of
Britain's MI5 spy agency.
But the 52-year-old was not under investigation when he sped across
Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, plowing down pedestrians with a hired
car before running into the parliamentary grounds and fatally stabbing
an unarmed policeman.
He was shot dead by police.
Although some of those he was involved with included people suspected of
being keen to travel to join jihadi groups overseas, Masood "himself
never did so", said a U.S. government source, who spoke to Reuters on
condition of anonymity.
"Our investigation focuses on understanding his motivation, his
operation and his associates," Britain's senior counterterrorism police
officer, Mark Rowley, told reporters.
"Whilst there is still no evidence of further threats, you'll understand
our determination is to find out if either he acted totally alone,
inspired perhaps by terrorist propaganda, or if others have encouraged,
supported or directed him."
Islamic State claimed responsibility for Masood's attack, although it
was unclear what links - if any - he had with the militant group. Police
said there had been no prior intelligence about his intent to mount an
Born Adrian Russell Ajao in Kent to the southeast of London on Christmas
Day in 1964, he moved though several addresses in England, although he
was known to have lived recently in Birmingham in central England.
The Daily Mail newspaper said he was brought up by his single mother in
the town of Rye on England's south coast, later converting to Islam and
changing his name. Other media reports said he was a married father of
three and a former English teacher who was into bodybuilding.
Known by a number of aliases, he racked up a string of convictions, but
none for terrorism-related offences. His occupation was unclear.
It was as long ago as November 1983 that he first came to the attention
of authorities when he was found guilty of causing criminal damage,
while his last conviction came 14 years ago in December 2003 for
possession of a knife.
Little detail has officially been given about the man and what might
have led him to carry out Wednesday's attack, the deadliest in Britain
since the London suicide bombings of 2005 by four young British
Islamists, which killed 52.
"Our working assumption is that he was inspired by international
terrorism," said Rowley.
Rowley said detectives were questioning nine people in custody, having
made two further "significant" arrests in central and northwest England.
A former neighbor from Birmingham said: "When I saw the pictures on TV
and in the papers of the man who carried out the attack, I recognized
him as the man who used to live next door."
[to top of second column]
Flowers are placed at the scene of an attack on Westminster Bridge,
in London, Britain March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
"He had a young child, who I'd think was about 5 or 6 years old.
There was a woman living there with him, an Asian woman. He seemed
to be quite nice, he would be taking care of his garden and the
weeds," Iwona Romek, 45, told reporters at her home.
In December, she said, he suddenly moved out.
Birmingham has been one of the hotbeds for British Islamists.
According to a study by the Henry Jackson think tank earlier this
month, 39 of 269 people convicted in Britain of terrorism offences
from 1998 to 2015 came from the city.
Among those plots was one to kidnap and behead a British soldier. In
December, two men were found guilty of planning to give 3,000 pounds
($3,750) to Brussels bombing suspect Mohamed Abrini - widely known
as "the man in the hat".
There are over 213,000 Muslims in Birmingham, making up over a fifth
of the population, according to the 2011 census, and there has been
growing concern about divisions in the diverse city.
The car Masood used in Wednesday's attack had been hired from rental
firm Enterprise's Spring Hill branch in Birmingham, suggesting he
still had connections to the area.
Since the attack in London, police have raided a number of addresses
across the city, arresting five men and two women on suspicion of
preparing terrorist acts.
Masood may have rented an apartment close to the Edgbaston area of
Birmingham, not far from the Enterprise offices, and that was one of
the properties raided by armed officers.
On the eve of the attack that Prime Minister Theresa May cast as an
attack on democracy, Masood spent his last night in a budget hotel
in Brighton on the south coast where he ate a takeaway kebab, the
Sun newspaper said.
"An act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy," May told
parliament. "He took out his rage indiscriminately against innocent
men, women and children."
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Guy
Faulconbridge and Ralph Boulton)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.