By DAN BILEFSKY, STEPHEN CASTLE and PRASHANT S. RAO
LONDON – The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Thursday for the deadly attack outside the British Parliament, as Prime Minister Theresa May described the assailant as a British-born man whom the country’s domestic intelligence agency had investigated for connections to violent extremism.
London police identified him Thursday afternoon as Khalid Masood, 52, who had a long criminal history but no terrorism convictions. He had been living recently around Birmingham, England, where the vehicle used in the attack was rented. The police released few other details about him.
Hours earlier, addressing lawmakers who only a day earlier had been under lockdown, May said the attacker was “a peripheral figure” who had been examined by MI5, Britain’s domestic counterintelligence agency, but who had not been “part of the current intelligence picture.”
May said that officials were not ready to release the man’s name, but she added that “there was no prior evidence of his intent or of the plot” and that “our working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology.”
Barely an hour after May finished speaking, the Islamic State group issued a statement on the messaging app Telegram, declaring that the attacker was a “soldier” who “carried out the operation in response to appeals” to fight Western powers involved in military operations in the Middle East.
British authorities raided six properties across the country on Thursday, detaining eight people in London and in Birmingham, in central England, as they pressed ahead with a fast-moving investigation.
Authorities emphasized that they believed the assailant had acted alone, and that they did not expect any further attacks.
Consistent with the multicultural character of London, the victims of the attack – three dead and around 40 others wounded – included 12 Britons, at least four South Koreans, three French schoolchildren, two Greeks, two Romanians, two Americans and one citizen each from China, Germany, Ireland and Italy.
Police also said that they had lowered the death toll in the attack on Wednesday to four from five, including the assailant. He drove his vehicle over pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed a police constable, Keith Palmer, 48, before being shot dead by police. The two civilians killed were Kurt W. Cochran, an American tourist in his 50s, and Aysha Frade, 43, a British teacher.