Terror attack on Westminster Bridge leaves London reeling, 4 dead and more injured

By Boris Zyumbyulev || Staff Writer

Four people died and over 50 were injured in a terrorist attack on Parliament in London, the United Kingdom.

Around 2:40pm on Wednesday, 22nd March, an assailant drove a hired Hyundai SUV from the south side of the river Thames in London, onto Westminster Bridge, where he sped up and mounted the pavement, running over a crowd of people. Immediately after, he crashed into the metal fence of Parliament. The man left the vehicle wielding two knives and entered the New Palace Yard. There he stabbed unarmed police officer Keith Palmer, 52. Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon’s bodyguard, who was in the yard as well, shot the terrorist three times in the chest.

The gunshots put the local area and Parliament under a lockdown, forcing the MP’s in the House of Commons to stay put for four hours. Theresa May, the UK’s Prime Minister, was promptly removed from Parliament, put in a car, and driven off to safety to her office on Downing Street. Paramedics rushed to the scene and attempted to save both the officer and the criminal, but both died on the street. Along with them, teacher Aysha Frade from London, tourist Kurt Cochran from Utah, and Leslie Rhodes from Streatham, South London died. Rhodes passed away from his wounds in the hospital after he was taken off life support while the others lost their lives around Parliament.

Around fifty other people were injured in the attack, including 12 Britons, 4 South Koreans, 3 French school-children, two Romanians, two Greeks, and one each from the U.S., Italy, China, Ireland, Poland, and Germany. Several of them have suffered life-threatening injuries and are being treated, in particular a Romanian woman who is still in critical condition.

The attacker was identified as Khalid Masood, 52, from Dartford in Kent. He was born Adrian Russell Ajao to the then 17-year old Janet Ajao. Khalid Masood was married and had three children. His most recent residence was in the West Midlands in the UK. Masood has had a history of convictions, his first one in 1983, and the last one in 2003. He has been convicted of grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons, and public order offenses. None of these convictions were related to terrorism. As a result he has spent time in Lewes Jail, East Sussex, Wayland Norfolk, Ford Open Prison, and West Sussex for his offenses.

Deputy London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley says they believe Masood had been “inspired by international terrorism” and ISIS, although he had no direct communication with the group. The Islamic State came out with a statement praising Khalid as a “soldier” who had answered to their call. According to The Guardian, this statement is a sign that the attack was not organized by the Islamic State, but was carried out independently. As CNN notes, “ISIS has not posted a video showing a pledge of allegiance from the attacker.” Rowley has also underlined that it is the investigation’s goal to determine all connections surrounding the terrorist and the attack itself.

The British police have raided several addresses in London, Birmingham, Brighton, and Carmarthenshire in response to Khalid’s actions. Eleven people have been arrested, 2,700 items have been confiscated along with a significant amount of digital data, and around 3,500 witnesses have contacted the police with testimonies and information. As of March 26, nine of the eleven have been released without plans for further action. Mark Rowley has added that it is important to understand the assailant’s motivations, preparation, and potential accomplices.

Following the attack Theresa May addressed the House of Commons with the words that, “We will never waver in the face of terrorism” and that “the greatest response lies not in the words of politicians, but in the everyday actions of ordinary people.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the White House, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan have expressed their condolences and their support in responding to terrorism.

On Thursday to commemorate the victims of Wednesday, hundreds of people convened together at Trafalgar Square. On the ground in front of the National Gallery, the London subway’s logo was drawn on the ground with the words “We are not afraid” in chalk, referencing the subway bomb attacks in London from 2005. In addition, the British, the French, and Belgian flag were inscribed on the ground as a monument to Europe’s resilience against the most recent occasions of terrorism.

First-year Boris Zyumbyulev is a staff writer. His email is bzyumbyu@fandm.edu.

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