Suspect in U.K. Parliament attack ID’d, motivation still a mystery

LONDON — British authorities said they are considering turning the area around Parliament into a pedestrian zone to prevent future vehicle attacks as police searched three properties for clues about the motivation of a man who plowed into cyclists and pedestrians. British media on Wednesday identified the suspect as Salih Khater, a 29-year-old British citizen of Sudanese origin.

Police searched the suspect’s apartment in Birmingham, as well as another property in the city and a third in Nottingham. A Facebook page for a man of the same name says he lives in Birmingham, works as a shop manager, and has studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology.

British authorities do not name suspects until they are formally charged.

The incident was the second in less than 18 months in which a suspected terrorist used a vehicle to attack the heart of Britain’s government. Over the past two decades authorities have tightened security around Parliament with fences, crash barriers and armed police. 

As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, emergency services treated three people at the scene of Tuesday’s apparent attack, but there were no life threatening injuries; probably thanks to special anti-terrorist barriers erected at strategic locations after a similar incident last year in which a terrorist rammed his car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing people, leaving a total of five dead.

The car was driven from Birmingham by a 29-year-old British man, according to police. When he got to the scene, he staked out Westminster before smashing his car. 

Now the rise of vehicle attacks around the world is triggering calls for traffic to be barred from the area.

“So some of the things we’re keen to do, working with the Palace of Westminster, working with the council and the experts, is to part-pedestrianize that part of Parliament Square immediately outside the gates to Parliament, but at the same time making it attractive,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC.

While such a project presents challenges, Khan said, “it’s possible to have a design solution that meets the objectives … in relation to keeping our buildings and our people as safe as we can do, but also not losing what’s wonderful about our city which is a vibrant democracy.”

Police on Tuesday flooded the streets around the iconic gothic Parliament buildings and cordoned off the area that attracts tourists as well as lawmakers after a speeding car plowed into cyclists and crashed into a barrier outside the House of Lords. Police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

It was the fourth vehicle attack in Britain — and the second on Parliament — in less than 18 months.

“The priority for the investigation team is to understand the full circumstances and motivation behind this incident,” the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement.

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