London attacker converted to Islam, identified as Khalid Masood

London: The Westminster attacker has been identified as 52-year-old Khalid Masood – a British-born convert to Islam with a criminal record who had “some years ago” been investigated by Britain’s spy agency MI5 for violent extremism.

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He was born Adrian Russell Ajao in Dartford, Kent, according to reports in the British press, and was brought up by his single mother in the East Sussex seaside town of Rye, later converting to Islam and changing his name.

His identity was made known just over 24 hours after he drove a hired Hyundai into a crowd of pedestrians crossing Westminister Bridge, before crashing the vehicle into the gates outside Parliament House, where he stabbed to death police officer Keith Palmer. He was then shot dead by police.

Four people, including Masood, died on the day of the attack. Police said a fifth victim, 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes, died on Thursday night.

The Metropolitan police said Masood had recently been living in the West Midlands and was known by numerous aliases. His birth name was originally reported as Adrian Elms.

Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons the attacker was a “peripheral figure” and not part of the current intelligence picture.

Police said Masood was known to them and had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including greivous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.

He was first convicted 34-years ago in November 1983 for criminal damage. He was last convicted in an offence in December 2003 for possessing a knife.

Police arrested eight people – including three women – following raids at six addresses after the attack. Some of the homes were in Birmingham and London.

They searched another address in Carmarthenshire, Wales and are continuing their investigations.

On Friday, police announced a further two “significant arrests” had been made in connection with the attack, taking the total number arrested to 10.

The authorities believe the attacker acted alone and there is no further threat. Britain’s terror level will not be raised to “critical” but remain at “severe” – the second highest level.

“The man was British born and some years he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism,” Mrs May said.

“He was a peripheral figure, the case is historic, he was not part of the current intelligence picture,”

“There was no prior intelligence of his intent – or of the plot. Intensive investigations continue.”

British police say they believe the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology.

Masood had reportedly been living at a flat in Birmingham’s Winson Green – a multi-racial area in the inner city.

Police raided the flat in the early hours of Thursday morning, following another raid on a different apartment on the other side of Birmingham.

According to the Birmingham Mail, local residents confirmed that the man photographed on a stretcher after being shot in Westminster had recently lived at the address with a woman and young child. However, he had reportedly left the property in December.

Neighbour Iwona Romek told the Mail: “When I saw the picture of him [on the stretcher] I said that was him and so did my husband.”

Another woman, whose mother was a neighbour of Masood, told The Washington Post the couple had at least two children.

“They were just an ordinary family. I would never have assumed that he was in any way related to terrorist activity,” the woman, Marjoli Gajecka, told the Post.

Associated Press reported that Islamic State, through its Aaamaq news agency, had claimed the London attacker was “a soldier of the Islamic State.”

The car Masood used in Wednesday’s attack had been hired from rental firm Enterprise’s Spring Hill branch in Birmingham, suggesting he still had connections to the area. The BBC reported that he gave his profession as “teacher” but has confirmed he has never worked as a qualified teacher in state schools.

Parliament resumed on Thursday after a minute’s silence, in a deliberate show of strength by MPs.

A steely Mrs May vowed the Parliament would not be cowed as she praised the courage of the slain police officer, PC Palmer.

“Yesterday an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy but today we meet as normal,” she said.

“We meet here in the oldest of all parliaments,” she said. “Because we know that democracy and the values that it entails will always prevail.”

“[PC Palmer] was every inch a hero and his actions will never be forgotten,” the Prime Minister said.

Twelve Britons were among the 40 injured, including three police officers who were returning from an event marking their bravery.

Mrs May said the injured also included three French schoolchildren, four South Koreans, two Romanians, two Greeks, one German, one Irish, one Pole, one Italian, one Chinese and one American person.

“This was an attack on free people everywhere,” she said.

Australian woman Patricia Neis-Beer was also injured in the attack. Her family is anxious for her to return home from Europe.

with Reuters, Fairfax Media

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