By Madeleine Hillyer, International News Editor
On March 22, a man launched an attack on the Westminster Bridge using a car that killed five people and injured many others. Khalid Masood, a 52 year old British born man, has been identified as the attacker. This attack coincided with the one year anniversary of the Brussels terrorist attack that happened in March 2016.
According to BBC, the attack started on the morning of March 22 when Khalid Masood used a truck he had leased to intentionally drive over a barrier on the Westminster Bridge, hitting pedestrians who were walking on the bridge. Masood hit many tourists and other pedestrians on the bridge before stabbing a police officer in front of the House of Parliament. Masood was then shot dead by police.
The entire attack lasted 82 seconds but ended in the death of four people and injured nearly 50 people. The victims were from all around the world as the area is a popular attraction for tourists in Britain. There were nationals from 12 countries among the injured. Kurt Cochran, an American national, who was there with his with Melissa for their anniversary was killed in the attack. His wife Melissa, was injured and is still recovering
The police officer killed was Keith Palmer, a 48 year old parliament protection officer. Mr. Palmer left behind his wife and five year old daughter.
The day following the attack, an ISIS spokesperson claimed that Khalid Masood was one of their operatives and planned this attack under their mission. However, British intelligence have said they have found no communication or any other ties between Masood and any ISIS leaders or operatives.
Following the attack, British police arrested a dozen people they believed may be connected to Mr. Masood or the attack in concern that Masood’s acts were part of a broader terrorist plot. As of April 1, all of those arrested under suspicion of connections to Mr. Masood’s terror plot were released from jail with no charges. Mr. Masood’s wife, Rohey Hydara, was arrested and later released. She told police that she was shocked and saddened by her husband’s actions and wished a speedy recovery for all those who were injured in the attack. Ms. Hydara has condemned her husband’s attack and has been released from police custody. It is not believed she is connected to the planning or execution of Mr. Masood’s attack. BBC reports Mr. Masood had three children.
British officials have said that security in parliament and in the area has been doubled following the attack and should remain at heightened levels in the following weeks.
This attack raised new security concerns for anti-terror and security agencies. The use of vehicles in attacks has been on the rise recently, as similar attacks were seen in Brussels and Germany. Security against lone wolf attacks such as this one is particularly difficult as there can be few warning signs before the actual attack, especially when standard weapons are not used.
One security issue raised after the attack was that of messaging services and the protections they can offer terrorists and others participating in criminal activity. Investigators found that Mr. Masood connected to the messaging app WhatsApp on his phone minutes before the attack. WhatsApp offers end to end encryption, meaning third partiesing WhatsApp itself, cannot see messages after they have been sent. This is concerning to investigators as apps like these are often how terrorists and others planning attacks communicate with each other. Law enforcement agencies say that an inability to review messages on these apps could mean missing vital information that could prevent a connected or similar attack from happening in the future. According to BBC, British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, stated that these apps must be changed so there is, “no place for terrorists to hide.” Ms. Rudd plans to go to Brussels to discuss with EU leaders the effects these types of encryption apps have on criminal activities and policies to implement to decrease the ability to enact criminal behavior without law enforcement knowing.
WhatsApp has said they are horrified by the attack and plan to cooperate with law enforcement.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th print edition.
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