Thursday, December 01, 2022

UK officials describe Liverpool car bomb as a terrorist incident

UK officials describe Liverpool car bomb as a terrorist incident

By Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka | The Associated Press

LONDON: British authorities raised the country’s threat level to the second highest on Monday after police said a home-made bomb had exploded in a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital.

Investigators said they were treating Sunday’s blast as a terrorist incident – in which the suspected bomber was killed and the cab driver injured, but the motive was unclear.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Center has raised the UK threat level from substantial – meaning an attack is likely – to severe, meaning it is highly likely after the UK’s second fatality in a month. Conservative MP David Ames was stabbed to death in October in what police called an act of terrorism.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “sick attack” at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and told reporters that the British people “will never be afraid of terrorism.”

“We will never bow down to those who want to divide us with senseless acts of violence,” he said.

A male passenger in a taxi was killed and the driver injured when the vehicle exploded as it pulled outside the hospital on Sunday morning. Russ Jackson, the chief of the counter-terrorism police in northwestern England, said the explosion was caused by “ignition of the explosive device” that was brought into the vehicle by the passenger.

On Sunday, three 20-year-olds were arrested elsewhere in the city under the Terrorism Act and a fourth was detained on Monday. Police said all are believed to be “accomplices” of the deceased passenger.

Police said they had identified the suspected attacker, but did not name him. Britain’s Press Association news agency and other media reported that he was not on the radar of security services.

The timing has raised doubts about the blast’s motive – just before 11 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday, the moment when people across Britain hold services in memory of those killed in the war.

Jackson said investigators had not found a link to the events of the recall “but it is a line of investigation that we are pursuing.”

“Though the reason for this incident is not yet understood, but in view of all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident,” he said in a press conference.

He said the passenger was taken away by the cab a 10-minute drive away and asked to take him to the hospital, where the blast took place. The driver, named David Perry by local media, managed to escape from the car. He was treated in the hospital and released.

Police said officers searched two addresses in the city linked to the traveler and found “critical items” in one of them. As part of the investigation, officers carried out a controlled explosion “as a precaution”.

Liverpool Mayor Joan Anderson said the taxi driver had locked the doors of his cab so that passengers could not leave. Police did not confirm that account.

“The taxi driver managed to turn him around in what could have been a terrible disaster at the hospital with his valiant efforts,” Anderson told the BBC.

The prime minister also said that the driver appeared to have behaved “with an unbelievable presence of mind and bravery”.

Nick Aldworth, a former senior terrorism investigator in the UK, said the taxi suffered “a lot of fire damage with very little explosion damage.”

He said, “Whatever was in that vehicle was either low yield, or didn’t function properly, or possibly an incendiary. So I guess that’s the debate at the moment about what happened.” Very open to doing.”

Britain’s official terrorism threat level was lowered from “severe” to “substantial” in February. It has been severe most of the time since 2014, briefly becoming “severe” in 2017 amid violent attacks. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Center determines threat levels based on intelligence about international terrorism at home and abroad.

Britain has experienced attacks from both Islamist and far-right extremists over the years, including the May 2017 suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people. Ames was stabbed to death on 15 October. Said to be an act of terrorism by a supporter of the Islamic State group. He was assassinated five years after Labor Party legislator Joe Cox was shot and stabbed to death by an ultra-right winger.

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