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London police: Car rampage outside Westminister treated as 'terrorist incident'

LONDON - A man crashed his car into security barriers outside Britain's Houses of Parliament during Tuesday morning's rush hour, injuring three people in what police are calling a terrorist incident.

The driver was arrested at the scene on "suspicion of terrorist offenses," police said.

The suspect, a man in his late 20s, was taken to a south London police station where he remains in police custody. His name has not been released.

"Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident and the investigation is being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command," said Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu.

"Our priority is to formally identify the suspect and establish his motivations if we can. He is not currently cooperating," he added.

London Ambulance Service said its staff treated three people at the scene, two of whom ended up at a local hospital. A third suffered minor injuries. Scotland Yard said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Several witnesses told British news media that the crash appeared to be intentional. The man's silver Ford Fiesta sideswiped cyclists and pedestrians, striking several.

In Washington, President Donald Trump weighed in on the incident Tuesday morning on Twitter. "Another terrorist attack in London," he wrote. "These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!"

The Palace of Westminster, where Parliament convenes, bolstered security around the buildings in March 2017, after Khalid Masood drove his car into crowds along Westminster Bridge, killing four people. In that attack, Masood leaped from his smashed car with a knife and began slashing at police and passersby. He killed one policeman before he was shot and killed by armed officers.

"I saw a car going at high speed toward Parliament. It hit a bollard," Jason Williams, 45, told ITV news, referring to a traffic barrier on the sidewalk. "It looked deliberate. It didn't look like an accident. How do you do that by accident? It was a loud bang."

He estimated the car was traveling at 40 to 50 mph.

Footage from a rooftop video camera showed the suspect's car clipping cyclists and narrowly missing pedestrians, jumping a curb, weaving toward the barriers, before crashing outside the Parliament building, across the street from Westminster Abbey. Parliament is currently on summer recess.

Police immediately surrounded the car, which was traveling fast enough to deploy its air bags upon collision. Photographs taken at the scene show armed police surrounding a silver sedan, with automatic weapons pointed inside the car.

Witness Ewalina Ochab told Britain's Press Association: "I heard some noise and someone screamed. I turned around and I saw a silver car driving very fast close to the railings ...."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "All Londoners, like me, utterly condemn all acts of terrorism on our city. The response of Londoners today shows that we will never be cowed, intimidated or divided by any terrorist attack."

Prime Minister Theresa May thanked the emergency services for their "immediate and courageous" response to the attack. May's security cabinet scheduled a meeting of its emergency COBRA committee for the afternoon.

The 2017 vehicular and knife attack at Westminster was carried out by 52-year Muslim convert born in Britain under the name Adrian Russell Ajao, who police said was carrying out "Islamist-related terrorism" that was "inspired" by Islamist militant groups overseas, but not directed by them.

In a WhatsApp message sent moments before the 2017 assault, Masood declared he was waging religious war on behalf of Muslim countries in the Middle East under attack by the West.

After the assault, British police bolstered security around Parliament, erecting metal barriers to limit access to the buildings and protect the site from vehicles deployed as battering rams.

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This article was written by William Booth, a reporter for The Washington Post.

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