UK prime minister defiant in face of London attack

LONDON (AP) — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Thursday for an attack carried out in Britain’s capital on Wednesday afternoon.

In a somber but defiant statement, Britain’s prime minister declared, “We are not afraid.”

British officials named the attacker as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old with criminal convictions who was living in the West Midlands, which includes the central city of Birmingham.

Masood drove an SUV into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, then stabbed a police officer to death at Britain’s Parliament.

In a speech before the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said Masood, who was shot to death by police at the scene, was born in Britain and once came under investigation for links to religious extremism.

Police raided properties in London and Birmingham, making eight arrests.

May saluted the heroism of police, as well as the everyday actions of London residents who went about their lives in the aftermath.

“As I speak, millions will be boarding trains and airplanes to travel to London, and to see for themselves the greatest city on Earth,” she told the House of Commons. “It is in these actions – millions of acts of normality – that we find the best response to terrorism. A response that denies our enemies their victory, that refuses to let them win, that shows we will never give in.”

Flowers and a photo of slain police officer Keith Palmer on Whitehall near the Houses of Parliament in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Parliament held a moment of silence Thursday morning to honor the slain officer, Keith Palmer, a 15-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police and a former soldier, as well as the other victims. Then Parliament, which was locked down after the attack, returned to business — a counter to those who had attacked British democracy.

A Utah man visiting London with his wife for their 25th anniversary and a British woman who was a school administrator were killed by the SUV attack on the bridge.

Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said 29 people required hospitalization, seven of them in critical condition. He said authorities were still working out the number of “walking wounded” from the attack.

In the 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament’s buildings, politicians, journalists and parliamentary staff lined up to sign a book of condolences for the victims. Among them was a uniformed policeman who wrote: “Keith, my friend, will miss you.”

The rampage was the first deadly incident at Parliament since 1979, when Conservative lawmaker Airey Neave was killed in a car bombing by Irish militants.

Some parliamentarians said they were shaken, and all were somber. But they were also determined.

“There is no such thing as 100 percent security,” said Menzies Campbell, a member of the House of Lords. “We have to learn to live with that.”

IS said Thursday through its Aamaq News Agency that the London attacker was a soldier of the Islamic State who “carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting citizens” of countries fighting IS in Syria and Iraq.

Police believe the London attacker acted alone and there is no reason to believe “imminent further attacks” are planned, May said.

Car rental company Enterprise said the car used in the terror attack was owned by them and was rented in Birmingham.

Labour Party lawmaker Khalid Mahmood, who represents part of Birmingham, condemned the “barbaric attack” and urged his fellow Muslims to report concerns about radicalization to the police.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on her way to Parliament on Thursday, following the attack in London Wednesday. ( Jack Taylor/Pool via AP)

“We have to condemn this outright,” he said. “There are no ifs or buts. This is a hugely tragic incident. These people do not belong to any faith. They certainly don’t belong to my faith of Islam.”

Mahmood said the attacker and those like him “should be condemned by everybody and this shouldn’t serve as a tool for division within our community.”

U.S. President Donald Trump was among the world leaders offering their condolences.

London has been a target for terrorism many times in past decades and the threat level for the British capital was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was “highly likely.” Just this weekend, hundreds of armed police took part in an exercise simulating a terror attack on a tourist boat on the River Thames, which winds through London.

May said the attack in London targeted “free people everywhere” and declared she had a response for those behind it: “You will not defeat us.”