Revealed: Westminster terror suspect, 29, is farmers’ son with a love of Celine Dion, Rihanna and football who ‘came … – Daily Mail
The Sudanese-born immigrant accused of bringing terror to Westminster came to Britain five years ago and had lost his farmer father and brother in the months before he used his Ford Fiesta to plough into crowds, MailOnline can reveal today.
Salih Khater, 29, has been described as a quiet loner who spent much of his time listening to pop music, smoking shisha and surfing online at an internet cafe below his flat in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham.
His rented flat is also just ten minutes from the former home of Khalid Masood, whose murderous rampage 17 months ago appears to have inspired Khater’s own carborne attack yesterday.
Police have revealed he spent six hours stalking the streets of London before hurtling into 15 cyclists and driving at police officers manning a Westminster security barrier during yesterday’s morning rush hour.
He drove 115 miles to London late on Monday night and toured the Tottenham Court Road area between 1.25am and 5.55am before heading to Westminster and Whitehall at 6am and circled until he struck at just after 7.30am yesterday.
He is refusing to speak to detectives but MailOnline can reveal Khater enjoyed listening to Rihanna, Celine Dion and Eminem as well as watching Premier League games and football in his native Sudan.
‘Loner’ Salih Khater, 29, pictured, was a regular at an internet cafe below his flat in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham and was seen there on the day before the attack
Salih Khater, 29, veered off the road careering into pedestrians and cyclists at Parliament Square, after spending the night cruising around London
Last night it emerged Khater, who was said to be of Sudanese origin, drove from his rundown flat in Hall Green, Birmingham, to London on Monday evening arriving just after midnight. He spent all night driving around central London, cruising around tourist hotspots such as Tottenham Court Road between 1.25am and 5.55am
Police officers were spotted removing the damaged Ford Fiesta Khater used from the scene this evening
The location of the barrier crash was just around the corner from where Khalid Masood killed five people in March 2017
The car was written off by insurers last autumn and had failed an MOT as it had problems with headlights, a hand brake lever and the steering rack. But it was put back on the road and sold again eight weeks ago
The car was stopped in its tracks by a new security barrier designed to stop a lorryborne attack used in Nice or Berlin
Cyclists abandoned their bikes after the collision with one being treated for injuries in the middle of the road as terror came to London’s streets again
Khater said he studied electrical engineering at the Sudan University of Science and Technology and grew up in the rural town of Wad Madani, around 150 miles south-east of Khartoum where his parents farmed millet.
Friends have said he moved to Britain without his family around five years ago and soon gained British citizenship but recently his father and brother died within months of each other.
On Facebook he spoke about loving western music, putting music videos for friends to watch online, especially songs by Celine Dion, Eminem and Rihanna.
But in recent years his posts, which were a mix of English and Arabic, became rare until a month ago when he posted pictures of a Sudanese mosque and desert scenes.
British police will be contacting his 300 friends on Facebook who may be able to shed light on why he vanished in 2011.
It led to an apology where Khater wrote mysteriously on social media: ‘I promise I will not disappear again and I apologise for that thing’.
Today he is in a south London police station after veered off the road careering into pedestrians and cyclists on Parliament Square, after spending the night cruising around in a Ford Fiesta bought two months ago.
He lives in a scruffy flat above an internet cafe in Sparkhill, an area of Birmingham that has housed jihadi cells linked to terrorist plots at home and abroad.
Police raided this flat and internet cafe in Sparkhill Birmingham where Khater is believed to have lived until around four months ago but he had been seen here on the day before the attack
The terror suspect lives on the tenth floor of this tower block, which is close to Birmingham’s Central Mosque
This stalking of London streets will raise suspicions that he was looking for crowds and later plumped for Westminster, where violent extremist Masood killed six in March 2017.
There were screams as the Ford Fiesta mounted the pavement and mowed people down at up to 50mph at 7.37am before he crashed into a security barrier outside Parliament, narrowly missing two police officers.
Within seconds brave armed officers surrounded the car not knowing if he was armed or had a bomb and dragged him from the smoking vehicle.
In a chilling echo of Khalid Masood’s murderous rampage on Westminster 17 months ago, the driver, from Birmingham, sped towards the Palace of Westminster – narrowly missing two police officers guarding the access road who jumped out of his path. He then smashed into a security barrier outside Parliament.
Suspected terror attack tests beefed up Westminster security
Security measures around Westminster and on central London bridges were beefed up in the wake of terror attacks last year.
Within days of the atrocity at London Bridge and Borough Market in June 2017, barriers were put in place on bridges including Westminster, Waterloo and Lambeth in a bid to stop terrorists mowing down pedestrians.
Tactics for armed officers were also changed, with marksmen allowed to shoot at a vehicle being used in such an attack.
Previously, firearms officers had the option of shooting at a moving car, van or lorry, but this was discouraged as it was felt it could increase the risk to the public.
But the approach was revised so that firing at a car, van or lorry when it is on the move is an accepted tactic for such incidents.
There are also more armed patrols on the streets at any one time, with the number of firearms officers and vehicles having gradually increased since 2016.
A £143 million plan to boost armed policing was announced in the months after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, in which 130 people died and hundreds more were injured.
Security arrangements around Parliament are likely to come under fresh scrutiny at the forthcoming inquests into the deaths of five people including police officer Keith Palmer who were killed in the Westminster Bridge attack last year.
Khalid Masood ploughed a hired SUV into pedestrians on the bridge before getting out and fatally stabbing Mr Palmer, who was guarding the Palace of Westminster but was unarmed.
Around a month later, former Taliban bomb maker Khalid Ali was arrested in Parliament Square with three knives ready to attack MPs and police.
He was later jailed for at least 40 years for making the explosive devices and 25 years for the knife plot.
Scotland Yard said the public can expect to see more police officers, both armed and unarmed, on the capital’s streets in the wake of Tuesday’s incident.
Questions will be raised about why the attack took place during recess when Parliament is not sitting.
Despite hitting at least 15 cyclists and pedestrians during rush hour, no one was killed with only one female cyclist seriously injured.
Within minutes the driver, dressed in a white shirt, jeans and a black puffa jacket, was dragged from the driving seat of the crumpled vehicle by armed officers.
The terror suspect – thought to be a lone wolf – remained strangely calm and utterly silent, offering no resistance as he was handcuffed.
Police found no weapons or explosives.
Last night it emerged Khater, who was said to be of Sudanese origin, drove from his rundown flat in Hall Green, Birmingham, to London on Monday evening arriving just after midnight.
He spent all night driving around central London, cruising around tourist hotspots such as Tottenham Court Road between 1.25am and 5.55am.
He then spent 90 minutes driving around Whitehall and Westminster, leading to suspicions he may have been hunting for large crowds of tourists to target.
The man had not spoken a word since being arrested despite hours of questioning last night.
Officers have raided two addresses in Birmingham and one in Nottingham where the vehicle was registered.
The terror suspect is understood to have moved out of a run down flat above an Internet café almost four months ago. Khater is thought to have lived alone at the flat in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham.
A worker at the Bunna Internet café below the flat said police visited the premises and took away at least one of the computers.
Officers were seen leaving with evidence contained in clear plastic bags.
The worker claimed he saw the suspect inside the café the day before he drove to London.
One man outside the shop, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The police came to the café and took away evidence.’
Hours after the attack, Britain’s head of counter terrorism announced the suspect was not known to Scotland Yard or MI5 for any previous terrorist activity.
But last night it emerged he was an immigrant known to West Midlands police. Security minister Ben Wallace said the suspect was born in another country but had been given British citizenship.
The vehicle that police say he used ‘deliberately’ as a weapon was written off by insurers last autumn and had failed an MOT as it had problems with headlights, a hand brake lever and the steering rack.
But it was put back on the road and sold again eight weeks ago.
The attack was caught on CCTV showing the car swerve the wrong way down the road and veering across a pedestrian crossing through crowds of cyclists waiting at a set of traffic lights.
He hit a female cyclist who was left lying motionless in the road suffering from a suspected broken hip, while other injured cyclists lay sprawled in the road by their mangled bikes.
A man and the female cyclist were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and were later discharged. Robert Nicholson was heading to work and waiting in a ‘safe cycling box’ near Parliament when the man struck.
He said: ‘There were about 15 cyclists there. All of a sudden, whipping round the corner – just from the traffic lights – was this small car and just rammed straight through the group of ten to 15 cyclists that were stood there.’
One cyclist, a management consultant, told MailOnline how he cheated death as the speeding car ploughed past him – knocking down the cyclist next to him.
Armed officers swamp a crumpled silver car after a rush hour crash at Westminster today that left two pedestrians needing hospital treatment
First responders treat victims lying in the road on Parliament Square in an attack that did not claim any lives
Forensic officers by the Ford Fiesta that crashed into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament today in the first terror attack in Britain this year
Bicycles are sat against a wall near the scene of the crash at the Houses of Parliament today
How the Westminster car’s current owner has been registered for only two months
The car involved in today’s crash was a 2010 Ford Fiesta, first registered near Nottingham in March 2010.
Forensic officers by the car that crashed into security barriers outside Parliament
It has had five previous owners before the current keeper – who has only been registered to it since June 20.
The car, which has a manual transmission, is valued at about £4,500 and has an estimated mileage of around 68,000.
It previously failed an MOT in 2015 due to issues with the front brake pad, front tyre and front windscreen wiper.
It was also said to have suffered serious structural damage last November and written off – but then passed its most recent MOT this May.
Geoffrey Woodman, 27, from Battersea, was cycling to work when he heard a ‘loud screech’ and the car slammed into the woman on the bicycle next to him.
‘I felt very shocked,’ he said. ‘It was a very odd experience to have. It happens more and more but you never expect it to be you. It was so close.
‘One slight turn of the wheel and it would have taken me out. I had pulled up to the red light by Parliament Square and put my foot down.
‘After about ten seconds I heard a car screeching over the bridge. It was obscured behind a van at first but then it cut out in front of us through the red light on the wrong side of the road.
‘It swerved left and hit the lady two bikes to my left. It was going about 40 to 50mph. Its windscreen hit her quite hard as she was trying to jump off to the left.’
Kirsty Moseley, 31, of Brixton, south London, was a passenger in the first car behind the cyclists.
She said: ‘I heard a few shouts, looked up and this silver car was driving at high speed the wrong way into the cyclists.
‘People were thrown everywhere. [He had] two hands on the steering wheel and he did not look back over his shoulder to look at the damage he’d created – he was just looking deadpan straight in front of him.’
Westminster was quickly locked down, with more than 200 officers flooding the area including police ‘super spotters’ dispatched to look for other attackers using their specialist skills to recognise when a person is displaying minute signs of anxiety.
A large cordon was initially set up but police later announced there was no threat after ruling out the possibility of further attackers.
British Transport Police said commuters would see extra officers on trains and at stations around England, Scotland and Wales in response to the attack.
Geoffrey Woodman, 27, a management consultant from Battersea, was almost hit
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said there was ‘no intelligence at this time of further danger’ to Londoners following the attack.
But he added: ‘Detectives from the counter-terrorism command are making various other urgent enquiries to ensure that there is no outstanding risk to the public.’
BTP said anybody with concerns following the incident outside the Houses of Parliament can speak to a member of rail staff or a police officer.
Superintendent Chris Horton said: ‘We know incidents such as this are likely to cause concern, so our officers will be highly visible both on board trains and at stations.
‘We are there to reassure the travelling public so please don’t be alarmed if you see our officers, including firearms officers, on your journey.’
Neil Basu, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, said: ‘This appears to be a deliberate act… we’re treating it as a terrorist incident.’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said ‘we must keep an open mind’ about the suspected terror attack. He added: ‘The briefing I have received from counter-terrorism police and the security services is that work is ongoing and they are doing everything they can to find out more about the incident.’
Forensic officers were still at the scene where the Ford Fiesta crashed near the Houses of Parliament
Other officers were seen loading abandoned bicycles into vans after the crash that involved 15 cyclists and pedestrians
Britain faces 700 live terror probes: After new attack on Westminster, officials reveal the scale of the threat to the UK
by John Stevens, Deputy Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Almost 700 terror investigations are being carried out by the security services.
The figures were revealed yesterday after a car ploughed into cyclists outside Parliament in an apparent extremist attack.
Britain was on a heightened state of alert last night, with Theresa May warning that the threat was now ‘one of the starkest we have faced’.
Security minister Ben Wallace said the increased danger of attacks was ‘here to stay’. Their warnings came as anti-terror police tried to question a suspect over the latest feared targeting of Westminster.
The man – named last night as Salih Khater and said to be a British citizen of Sudanese origin – was arrested by armed police after the car hit cyclists and pedestrians before crashing into a security barrier at around 50mph during the morning rush-hour. Police raided a string of addresses in the Midlands as they tried to discover what was behind his actions. He was refusing to cooperate with police.
Britain was on a heightened state of alert last night after a car ploughed into cyclists outside Parliament in an apparent extremist attack
Cars could be banned from Parliament Square after another terror attack, says Met chief
The streets around Parliament could be pedestrianised to stop vehicle attacks, Britain’s most senior police officer has said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick praised officers’ courage as they leapt into action following the ‘ghastly’ incident on Tuesday.
Since the Westminster Bridge attack in March last year, Ms Dick said there had been an increase in the number of armed officers and barriers in place to protect the capital’s political heart.
Discussions between parliamentary authorities, security agencies, the police and London’s mayor will ‘no doubt’ take place about whether the site should be further pedestrianised, she said.
But the commissioner, speaking ahead of a series of unrelated dawn raids that took place in Lewisham, south east London, on Wednesday said: ‘As with anything there is a balance to be drawn.’
She added: ‘We are not going to give in, we are not going to just change our lifestyle, but it is important we take reasonable measures, as I think we have being doing over the last several months, to try and make sure that the most iconic sites, including those in central London, are well protected and should something happen there, that the police are able to respond very quickly with armed officers, which is exactly what we saw yesterday.’
Officials revealed that there were 676 live investigations being conducted by the security services and counter-terror police at the end of June, up from more than 500 three months earlier.
Some 13 Islamist plots have been foiled since March 2017 – including one in the past month. A further four far-Right plots have been stopped.
Officials also said that between 2010 and 2017 there were 2,029 terrorist arrests in Britain, but 412 of those were in the year to December – the highest on record.
Mrs May yesterday called on the country to come together as she voiced her disgust at the attack outside Parliament. It follows the Westminster Bridge attack in March last year in which Khalid Masood killed five pedestrians before stabbing to death PC Keith Palmer at the gates of Parliament.
The Prime Minister said: ‘For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door.
‘The threat to the United Kingdom from terrorism remains severe. I would urge the public to remain vigilant – but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year.
‘The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed.’
Mrs May voiced relief that no one had been killed in the latest attack as she praised the ‘formidable courage’ of the armed officers who apprehended the driver within minutes of him driving into the security barrier outside Parliament.
‘My thoughts are with the innocent members of the public who were hurt in this appalling incident,’ she said.
The Prime Minister, who is on holiday in Switzerland, was informed of the incident at 8am yesterday – less than half an hour after it took place. She was kept abreast of the situation throughout the day.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid last night returned to the UK from his holidays. A meeting of the Cobra emergency committee was held by security officials in Whitehall yesterday afternoon.
Officials revealed that there were 676 live investigations being conducted by the security services and counter-terror police at the end of June, up from more than 500 three months earlier (pictured: armed police outside Westminster station yesterday)
Last night Mr Wallace told 5 News: ‘We have seen a shift since 2017 in the numbers of terrorist plots and the number of live investigations that are going on – both from the far-Right and Islamist extremists.’ Asked if people should feel worried, he said: ‘I think worried is the wrong word. People should realise that this is at the moment going to be here to stay, that the shift in threat… is a phenomena of this generation.’
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: ‘We have been clear that the threat from terrorism is one of the starkest we have faced, the nature of the threat is changing and so is our response.’