Saturday 18 November 2017

Police pounce on suspected lone wolf 'on way to Downing Street'

Armed police detain a man at the scene following an incident in Whitehall, London, yesterday. Photo: PA
Armed police detain a man at the scene following an incident in Whitehall, London, yesterday. Photo: PA
Officers surround a man on the ground in Whitehall. Photo: PA
A forensics officer holds a knife at the scene. Photo: PA

Robert Mendick, Martin Evans and Ben Farmer, London

A suspected jihadist carrying a rucksack packed with knives was heading towards Downing Street when he was dramatically arrested by London police yesterday, security sources have said.

The "lone wolf" suspect had been under close surveillance when counter-terrorism officers ordered his immediate detention as he came within 300 yards of the gates of the prime minister's residence.

It is understood that the suspect's family had become concerned about his behaviour and reported him to the authorities several weeks ago.

Investigators believe he was about to launch an attack.

The 27-year-old man, dressed head to toe in black, was wrestled to the ground by armed police officers as he walked among a crowd of tourists and workers in Parliament Street just after 2.20pm.

His arrest came just five weeks after Khalid Masood was shot and killed just 100 yards away - within the grounds of the Palace of Westminster - having mown down bystanders in a hired car driven over Westminster Bridge.

Theresa May, who was on a tour of a factory in Chesterfield at the time of the arrest, praised security services for preventing another terrorist strike at the heart of British power.

Mrs May said: "It shows that our police and intelligence and security services are on the alert, as they always are, looking to keep us safe and secure."

A Whitehall source said that the man, who is understood to have been born overseas but who lives in south-east London, had been arrested as part of an "intelligence-led operation".

He had been followed on the Underground and is thought to have surfaced at St James's Park Tube station before heading towards Westminster. The source said: "He was under surveillance and he was stopped while walking away from Parliament Square and up Whitehall towards Downing Street."

A senior policing source said: "This is someone who was known and under surveillance. He was being watched very closely." They said the man had been "walking in the direction of Whitehall and No 10" and that "at some stage an alert went out to all the teams in the area and the order was made to pick him up."

Police said that as a result of the arrest there "is no immediate known threat", suggesting there was no evidence the man was a member of a terror network but was likely acting as a "lone wolf".

Sources said the arrest was ordered because the man was heading towards Downing Street, rather than from any specific intelligence about the contents of the backpack. The man was on a crossing by the central reservation of the busy street when armed officers moved in.

Ian Grant (56), from Poplar, East London, had just emerged from the Westminster Tube station when he saw "a police car go flying by".

He said: "All of a sudden two cops got out. Then an armed cop with a rifle came past me. I thought it was just a drill at first. Then he shouted, 'armed police, stop' and they got this guy down on the ground. When they shouted at him he didn't resist or say a word, he just put his hands up and stopped. Then they got the cuffs on him in the central reservation."

A French tourist, who was in New York on the day of the 9/11 terror attack and was visiting London with her daughter, saw the arrest take place.

The witness, who asked not to be named, said: "He [the suspect] was very calm. I think they got him on the ground, then they stood him up against the wall.

"I was in New York on September 11, so I am a bit scared of these things and being in the wrong place at the wrong moment." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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