westminsterbridge, cc Flickr Herry Lawford, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Summary

A lone wolf attacker has killed three people, including a US tourist and a police officer, before being shot dead by security forces outside Westminster in London. Another 40 people from 11 different countries were injured according to the BBC, with 29 needing hospital treatment and seven remaining in a critical condition. Khalid Masood, 52, a British citizen born in the county of Kent, was named by police as having carried out the attack. Mr Masood drove a car into pedestrians walking on Westminster Bridge, before stabbing a police officer to death after crashing the vehicle outside of the British parliament.

Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, which is used by the extremist group for propaganda purposes. For now, the claim remains unverified, although the UK government has confirmed that the British-born attacker was known to security forces as a religious extremist. For now, the UK authorities believe Mr Masood acted alone, but a number of his acquaintances have been arrested in the aftermath of the attack.

 

Background

A history of extremism. Mr Masood was unusually old for a suicide attacker, who tend to be men in their late teens to late twenties. Although his activities had caused concern for the authorities in the past, he was not “part of the current intelligence picture” according to Prime Minister Theresa May. Like many lone wolves, he had had a troubled past, having been convicted of violent offences, including GBH, possession of a knife, and assault. However, his final criminal conviction – the weapons charge – came all the way back in 2003. He was therefore seen as a dormant and peripheral figure by present-day anti-terrorist investigators, a view which tragically turned out to have been mistaken in this case.