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Britain names parliament attacker, IS claims responsibility

AFP | Fri,2017-03-24

London police on Thursday identified a British man as responsible for killing four people in a rampage outside parliament, as hundreds gathered for a candlelit vigil in the capital.

The Islamic State group claimed the assailant behind the deadliest attack on British soil in 12 years was one of its "soldiers" acting on a call to target countries in the US-led coalition fighting the jihadists.

Police named him as Khalid Masood, 52, and said he had numerous convictions for violent offences but none terrorism-related.

"(He) was not the subject of any investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack."

Hundreds of people gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London for a vigil late Thursday led by Mayor Sadiq Khan who said "Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism".

The crowds brought messages of defiance, flags and flowers to the heavily-policed square and offered their condolences to officers who lost a colleague in the attack.

Naveed Mirza, a Muslim student, said he had received "overwhelming" support since the attack described by police as "Islamist-related terrorism".

"We have come to say how, as Muslims, we unequivocally condemn all the violent actions that took place yesterday," he told AFP.

Britain's top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley acknowledged that Muslim communities will "feel anxious" over fears of an Islamophobic backlash, and said police would work with community leaders.

Police said five men and three women aged 21 to 58 were arrested in overnight raids in London and the central city of Birmingham were being investigated "on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts".

Masood, reportedly a married father-of-three, rented the car used in the rampage in a town outside Birmingham and according to the BBC told the rental company that he was a teacher.

A spokeswoman for Britain's education ministry told AFP Masood was not a qualified teacher and had therefore not taught in any state schools.

Police said he went by numerous aliases.

He was described as "a nice guy" by Iwona Romek, a former neighbour who spoke to the Birmingham Mail.

"He had a wife, a young Asian woman and a small child who went to school," she said.