The Suspect in London Attack British Born

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A woman ducks under a police tape after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville – RTX326KA

LONDON — Police in Britain have arrested seven people in overnight raids in London, Birmingham and elsewhere in connection with the Wednesday attack on the Houses of Parliament by a knife-wielding man who first drove a vehicle down a crowded sidewalk.

Speaking Thursday morning, the top anti terrorism officer for the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), Mark Rowley, revised the death toll in the attack down by one, saying two civilians — a woman in her 40s and a man in his 50s — were killed, along with a police officer and the attacker. On Wednesday, Rowley had said three civilians died of their injuries.

CBS News has learned that an American man is in critical condition as a result of the attack. His wife was treated for less serious injuries. The couple have not been identified.

He also said 29 people were wounded, including seven who remained in critical condition on Thursday. That toll was also significantly lower than reported the previous day in the wake of the attack, when Rowley said 40 people were injured.

British media quoted witnesses as saying the suspect had lived at a home raided in Birmingham, which is about 120 miles north of the capital city.

The suspect, yet to be publicly identified, was fatally shot by an armed police officer after he stabbed the first officer he encountered just inside a gated entrance to the Parliament campus. Police Constable Keith Palmer died of his stab wounds.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility on Thursday for the attack, but offered no evidence of any prior communications with or links to the attacker. The claim was made in a simple statement posted on the website of ISIS’ pseudo-news agency, AMAQ, saying the man “carried out the attack in response to calls for the targeting of citizens of coalition countries.”

The statement did not include any details of the attacker’s identity or imagery of him.

Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday in the House of Commons that attacker was British-born and known to intelligence agencies. He was investigated by domestic spy agency MI5 historically, “in relation to concerns about violent extremism,” but had no longer been deemed “part of the current intelligence picture,” according to May.

One of the slain civilians was identified Thursday by her employer, a London high school, as Aysha Frade. According to Bristish media, she was a 43-year-old mother of two who worked as an administrator at the school, which is located just across the Thames from Parliament. 

Rowley reiterated Thursday that police believe they know the identity of the slain suspect, and they know “the media are making progress in identifying the attacker — I would continue to ask that his name is not published whilst we are at such a sensitive stage in our investigation.”

At the north end of the bridge, on the bank of the Thames, sit the Palaces of Westminster, home of the oldest parliament in the world and where the attacker’s car smashed into a perimeter fence and came to a stop.

From there the attacker, armed with at least one knife, walked through the same gate into the Parliamentary estate that is used by lawmakers. He was immediately challenged by PC Palmer. He stabbed Palmer and was shot by another, armed officer moments later as he tried to walk into the Houses of Parliament.

Rowley reiterated on Thursday morning that Scotland Yard does not believe any other suspects were directly involved in the attack.  

“At this stage, we have no specific information about further threats to the public,” said Rowley. “Clearly our investigation is ongoing — developing all the time — and is focused on his motivation, his preparation and associates.”

Speaking Thursday morning, British Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon said investigators’ “working assumption is that this is linked to Islamic terrorism.”

He sounded a defiant tone: “We are going to be reassuring people today that people are going back to normal. London has seen terrorism before and London has faced it down. Parliament will be going about normal business.”

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