I.S. claims at­tack on Bri­tish democ­racy

Place a favourite among Malaysian hol­i­day mak­ers

New Straits Times - - Front Page - ZAHARAH OTH­MAN LON­DON news@nst.com.my

THE Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for the as­sault by a Bri­tish-born lone wolf at Par­lia­ment in Lon­don that killed two peo­ple and a po­lice­man. The Bri­tish premier says the na­tion won’t wa­ver in the face of ter­ror­ism. Police have ar­rested eight peo­ple over the at­tack, which hap­pened at a place filled by tourists, in­clud­ing Malaysians on hol­i­day.

THE in­ci­dent at Westminster on Wednesday, now clas­si­fied as a ter­ror­ist act, hap­pened at an area where tourists flock to for a view of Westminster Palace and Big Ben, and to take in the sights from the bridge.

It is also a place where se­cu­rity is at an all-time high be­cause of its vicin­ity to the prime min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence at Down­ing Street and gov­ern­ment of­fices.

The in­ci­dent left four peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing the at­tacker, and ac­cord­ing to lat­est re­ports, 30 in­jured, of which seven are in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. An at­tacker, be­lieved to have acted alone, drove into a crowd on Westminster Bridge, pop­u­lar among tourists and lo­cals, es­pe­cially on a sunny day like Wednesday.

Police named the at­tacker as Bri­ton Khalid Ma­sood, say­ing he had a string of crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, but none for ter­ror­ism-re­lated of­fences.

Ma­sood, 52, was born in Kent and had been liv­ing in cen­tral Eng­land, police said.

“Ma­sood was not the sub­ject of any cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tions and there was no prior in­tel­li­gence about his in­tent to mount a ter­ror­ist at­tack.”

He was said to have run to Westminster Palace, where he at­tacked a po­lice­man with a knife that he was car­ry­ing.

The po­lice­man, Keith Palmer, died and the at­tacker was shot dead at the scene. The other dead were Bri­ton Aysha Frade and Amer­i­can Kurt Cochran.

The at­tack, though ex­pected af­ter the at­tacks in Paris and Ber­lin in re­cent years, where ram­ming into crowds be­came the modus operandi, still came as a shock.

The city is swarmed with Malaysian tourists spend­ing the school hol­i­days with their fam­ily and in group tours.

For As­tro Awani news an­chor and broad­cast jour­nal­ist Ma­lik Rid­hwan, the re­main­der of his hol­i­days in Lon­don turned into an un­ex­pected as­sign­ment when news of the in­ci­dent was flashed on his phone as he was hav­ing lunch with some friends in Ox­ford Street not too far away.

“We im­me­di­ately fin­ished our food and rushed to Ox­ford Cir­cus tube sta­tion and headed straight away to Char­ing Cross sta­tion,” said Ma­lik, know­ing very well that Westminster Sta­tion would be closed.

To­gether with another As­tro Awani col­league, Hakim Rahman, and some friends, they walked down Trafal­gar Square to White­hall, in front of Horse Guards Pa­rade, where a crowd of jour­nal­ists was gath­er­ing be­hind the police se­cu­rity line.

“It was un­der con­trol as se­cu­rity was tight. Police were en­sur­ing the perime­ter is safe within the par­lia­ment area. Lo­cal and for­eign me­dia all rushed to the scene do­ing live crossovers with their own TV net­works,” said Ma­lik, who had re­ported live to his sta­tion via Face­book.

He de­scribed the ex­pe­ri­ence as nor­mal for a jour­nal­ist.

“We have to be alert wher­ever we are, even when on hol­i­day.”

How­ever, he said, that it would have been unimag­in­able, had he been there on the bridge tak­ing pho­to­graphs as tourists are wont to do there.

At press time, it has been con­firmed that no Malaysians were in­jured. The Malaysian High Com­mis­sion had is­sued a state­ment say­ing that no Malaysians had been in­volved and that the Malaysian High Com­mis­sion was in close con­tact with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and “cur­rently pro­vid­ing timely up­dates to the Malaysian com­mu­nity in the city over the in­ci­dent”.

The so­cial net­work had been abuzz with news about the in­ci­dent as soon as it hap­pened about noon yes­ter­day.

Friends and relatives were con­cerned, send­ing mes­sages wish­ing those in Lon­don well and safe. A Face­book Safety Check site track­ing down Malaysians in Lon­don proved to be com­fort­ing when peo­ple marked them­selves as safe.

How­ever, many Malaysians who had left Lon­don had not up­dated their lo­ca­tions and had caused some worry among those who knew them.

By evening, police vans, with sirens, could be seen tear­ing down Edg­ware Road, pre­sum­ably to the Padding­ton Green Police Sta­tion, a max­i­mum se­cu­rity police sta­tion, where ter­ror­ist sus­pects are held.

Police pres­ence was vis­i­ble at street cor­ners and sta­tions, al­though there was no at­mos­phere of ten­sion in the air as was the case of the Lon­don bomb­ings in July 2005.

How­ever, there is a feel­ing of un­ease among Mus­lims, weary about the reper­cus­sions of such an at­tack with fingers al­most al­ways point­ing to Mus­lims.

Mayor of Lon­don Sadiq Khan had been quick to con­demn the at­tack, say­ing: “Lon­don is the great­est city in the world, and we stand to­gether in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.”

Page 1 pic: A police of­fi­cer plac­ing flow­ers and a photo of police of­fi­cer Keith Palmer, who was killed in the Westminster at­tack on Wednesday, at White­hall near the Houses of Par­lia­ment in Lon­don yes­ter­day.

PIX BY ZAHARAH OTH­MAN

Police pres­ence is vis­i­ble at street cor­ners and sta­tions in Lon­don fol­low­ing the Westminster at­tack on Wednesday.

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