Police get longer to quiz Parliament crash suspect as friends claim ‘accident’

Detectives have been granted more time to quiz the suspect in the alleged terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament, as associates described the crash as “an accident”.

Salih Khater, 29, was arrested by armed police from a silver Ford Fiesta that crashed into a security barrier after allegedly ploughing into cyclists and pedestrians.

The British national, originally from Sudan, was first held on a terrorism charge and later additionally arrested for attempted murder.

He remains in custody at a south London police station and Scotland Yard said Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday granted the force a warrant to detain him until Monday.

The Metropolitan Police’s counter-terror head Neil Basu earlier said Khater was not co-operating, while the priority of the investigation team continues to be to understand the motivation.

Mr Basu said the force is treating it as a terrorist incident because of its apparently deliberate nature, the method used and the “iconic” location.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A police van outside Brinklow Tower in Highgate Street, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)</figcaption>
A police van outside Brinklow Tower in Highgate Street, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)

But among those to express their shock at the keen footballer’s arrest was Anwar Mukhta, who said he has known the suspect for eight years.

He told ITV News the current narrative will be revealed to be a “lie”, adding: “It is an accident, it’s nothing to do with terrorists, it’s nothing to do with any organisation that tried to make an attack to any Government department.”

Mr Mukhta echoed other members of Khater’s community in Birmingham, saying the “very generous” and “very smiley” man travelled to London to get a visa to see his family in Sudan.

The suspect’s brother, Abdullah Khater, told the BBC he was a “normal person” and that their family, who are originally from Darfur, were in a “state of shock”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

Residents who knew the former accountancy student at Coventry University have described him as a quiet man who frequently visited the Bunna Internet Cafe on Stratford Road in Birmingham.

One customer, who would only give his name as Adam, said he had been served coffee by Khater and that he was a polite and apparently humble man.

“I am still in shock. I’ve known him for about a year and he is a very, very good man,” he told the Press Association.

“He was polite, humble and he kept himself to himself. The whole community is upset. I can’t see it not being an accident – I couldn’t see him hurting a fly, never mind a human being.”

The Met said officers have concluded searches at two addresses in Birmingham and one in Nottingham, and continue to search a third in Birmingham.

Salih Khater’s now-disabled Facebook says he lives in Birmingham, works as a shop manager, and has studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology.

Birmingham Central Mosque trustee Nassar Mahmood said inquiries in the local Sudanese community suggested Khater did not worship at the mosque and had shown no signs of radicalisation.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The Bunna Internet Cafe in Sparkbrook, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)</figcaption>
The Bunna Internet Cafe in Sparkbrook, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Mahmood said: “Like the rest of the community of the UK, the people of Birmingham and the Birmingham Central Mosque are surprised, shocked and saddened by the incident at Westminster. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people who have been injured.”

The Fiesta used in the alleged attack was driven from Birmingham to London late on Monday and spent almost five hours in the Tottenham Court Road area.

It then roved around Westminster for more than 90 minutes before crashing into the barrier just before 7.40am on Tuesday.

Footage aired on BBC News showed the car’s approach towards Parliament, where it crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with cyclists before entering a small road and crashing into a security barrier.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>A residential property on Peveril Street in Nottingham which was searched by police (Josh Payne/PA)</figcaption>
A residential property on Peveril Street in Nottingham which was searched by police (Josh Payne/PA)

Three people sustained non life-threatening injuries. One man was treated at the scene while another man and a woman were taken to hospital but were discharged by Tuesday evening.

Images posted online showed a man wearing a black puffer jacket being led away in handcuffs from the car as armed police swarmed the scene.

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

Witnesses described an emotionless driver who ploughed through cyclists who “were thrown everywhere” in what they said appeared to be a deliberate act.

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

The measures were extended after 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 fatally stabbed unarmed Pc Keith Palmer before he was shot by armed police in a courtyard outside Parliament.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The 2017 Westminster Bridge attack left four people dead (Stefan Rousseau/PA)</figcaption>
The 2017 Westminster Bridge attack left four people dead (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The terrorist threat against the UK is seen as unprecedented.

- Press Association

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