An indiscriminate attack by a British-born terrorist was a strike against "free people everywhere” and injured people from various countries, Theresa May told the House of Commons on Thursday.
Updating parliament on the ongoing investigation into Wednesday’s attack, the prime minister confirmed that the attacker, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, was born in the UK and known to the police and intelligence services.
The man had been investigated “some years ago” because of concerns about violent extremism but was considered a “peripheral” figure, May said.
“The case is historic – he was not part of the current intelligence picture,” May said.
Echoing defiant comments and tributes to the security authorities made by MPs in the House throughout the morning, the prime minister insisted Britain would not be cowed.
“We are not afraid. And our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism,” May said.
“A terrorist came to the place where people of all nationalities and cultures gather to celebrate what it means to be free. And he took out his rage indiscriminately against innocent men, women, and children.”
Among around 40 people hospitalised after the initial vehicle attack on Westminster Bridge were 12 Britons. Others injured were from various other countries: three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Irish, one Chinese, one Italian, one American, and two Greeks.
The UK is in close contact with the governments of their countries, May said.
Three police officers were among the injured. They were returning from a ceremony where they had been honoured for their bravery in the line of duty. Two were in a serious condition, the prime minister said.
She paid tribute to PC Keith Palmer, 48, who was stabbed to death by the attacker in front of parliament. “He was a husband and a father, killed doing a job he loved. He was every inch a hero,” May said.
It emerged yesterday that foreign minister Tobias Ellwood performed CPR on the wounded police officer in a bid to save his life.
May chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, at 7:30pm on Wednesday night.
She will have further briefings and meetings with security officials throughout Thursday.
There was no intelligence suggesting another attack was imminent.
“A full counterterrorism investigation is already underway,” the prime minister said.
There were limits on the details she could give during an ongoing investigation, May added, but she confirmed there had been six addresses searched overnight in Birmingham and London and eight arrests made.
Pressed for more details about the attacker, the prime minister’s official spokesman said there had been no intelligence indicating that the man had been planning this attack.
He told reporters the identity of the attacker would be made public “as soon as it is feasible to do so”. However, any decision would be made by the police at a point when it does not affect their investigation.
The spokesperson also confirmed the government has no immediate plan to change the powers available to the police or introduce new laws in the wake of the attack. Instead, May has been “focused entirely on this ever since it happened”.
The prime minister has spoken to Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Romanian prime minister Sorin Grindeanu, with further calls to follow.
The spokesperson said all government business – including the plan to invoke Article 50 next week – would continue as normal. The government also declined to entertain any criticism of the security services for failing to stop the attack.
“The police did their job and did it heroically so," the spokesman said.