UK News

Westminster terror suspect 'not known to police'

 Forensic officers by the car that crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London. Picture by Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire

A terror suspect accused of deliberately crashing a car outside the Houses of Parliament was not known to police or MI5, Scotland Yard has said.

The man, in his late twenties, is being held in custody at a south London police station after armed officers swarmed the scene following the suspected terror attack just before 7.40am today.

Two vehicles, which appear to be police vans with their lights flashing, can be seen behind the car shortly before the crash in footage of the incident aired on BBC News.

The silver Ford Fiesta is seen coming along the road next to Parliament Square before moving to turn right towards Westminster Abbey.

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Ewelina U Ochab of the car (right)which crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament 

As an ambulance passes the car on its right-hand side, the vehicle swerves left, crossing oncoming traffic and a pavement before entering a small road and crashing into a security barrier.

A police officer can be seen jumping another barrier that runs along the side of the road to get away.

Scotland Yard, which is treating the incident as a "terrorist incident", could not immediately comment on whether the suspect's car was being followed at the time.

Images posted to social media showed a man, wearing a black puffer jacket, surrounded by police and being led away in handcuffs from a silver-coloured Ford Fiesta.

There was nobody else in the vehicle and no weapons were found, Scotland yard said.

The silver Fiesta can still be seen near the barriers. A number of officers in forensic suits are working at the scene.

Images posted to social media showed a man wearing a black puffer jacket, surrounded by officers, being led away in handcuffs from a silver-coloured Ford.

Scotland Yard said the Met's Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation.

"At 07:37hrs on Tuesday 14 August, a silver Ford Fiesta collided with a number of cyclists and pedestrians, before crashing into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament," a spokesman said.

"The driver of the car, a man in his late 20s, was arrested at the scene by armed officers. He has been taken to a south London police station where he remains in police custody.

"He was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences.

"There was nobody else in the vehicle, which remains at the scene and is being searched. No weapons have been recovered at this stage."

The force spokesman added: "At this stage, we are treating this as a terrorist incident and the Met's Counter Terrorism Command is now leading the investigation."

Police on Westminster Bridge in London after a car crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture by Yui Mok, Press Association

Eyewitness Ewalina Ochab told the Press Association: "I was walking on the other side (of the road). I heard some noise and someone screamed.

"I turned around and I saw a silver car driving very fast close to the railings, maybe even on the pavement."

She said the vehicle did not appear to have a front registration plate when it crashed, adding: "The person driving did not go out."

The extended cordon running the length of Whitehall has also been lifted, with vehicles and pedestrians now using the road again. 

Cordons along Victoria Embankment have been lifted and Parliament Square is reopened.

The immediate area around the incident is still taped off and the site of the crash is screened by white temporary fencing.

 Police activity near the Houses of Parliament, Westminster in central London, after a car crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture by  Yui Mok/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with those injured and thanked the emergency services for their "immediate and courageous" response. 

The Metropolitan Police said on Twitter: "At 7.37am today, a car was in collision with barriers outside the Houses of Parliament.

"The male driver of the car was detained by officers at the scene.

"A number of pedestrians have been injured. Officers remain at the scene.

"We will issue further info when we have it."

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Two people were treated at the scene in Westminster for injuries that are not thought to be serious, London Ambulance Service said.

Assistant Director of Operations Peter Rhodes said: "We were called at 7.40am today to reports of an incident on St Margaret Street, SW1.

"We sent a number of resources to the scene including three ambulance crews, responders in cars and an incident response officer.

"We have treated two people at the scene for injuries that are not believed to be serious and have taken them to hospital."

Businessman Jason Williams said he had seen a man drive a car into a bollard outside the Houses of Parliament.

"He had driven it at speed - more than 40 mph. There was smoke coming out of the car," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I have seen people on the ground, lying on the road. I don't know if they have actually been hit by the vehicle or not. I saw at least 10 people lying down.

"I was told basically to move away, to run. I have run for my life."

The Houses of Parliament are surrounded with security barriers of steel and concrete.

The measures were extended in the wake of the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017 when Khalid Masood ploughed a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge, killing four people.

Masood abandoned his car then stabbed and killed unarmed Pc Keith Palmer before he was shot by armed police in a courtyard outside Parliament.

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