Five questions that MUST be answered about the London terror attack
Questions remain about how Masood managed to wreak so much havoc in seconds
It’s now more than 48 hours after the London terror attack which struck at the heart of British democracy in Westminster.
But it seems there are more questions than answers as to how and why Khalid Masood mowed down innocent people – Brits and tourists from 12 countries – before knifing to death PC Keith Palmer at an entrance to the Houses of Parliament.
The Metropolitan Police said this morning that their investigation – codenamed Operation Classific – is focused on "understanding his motivation, preparation and his associates".
More detail emerged overnight about 52-year-old Masood’s background, upbringing and previous criminal history after it emerged that he was born in Kent and grew up in leafy Middle England – and among other aliases was known as Adrian Elms and Adrian Russell Ajao.
There have been a number of raids across the UK – and a total of 11 arrests – but it’s still believed not known whether Masood acted as a ‘lone wolf’ attacker or was assisted with his plot to wreak devastation on the streets of the capital.
Here are the questions that the investigation will be focused on – and MUST answer:
1. Who else knew about the attack?
Even if Masood – who has also gone by the name of Adrian Ajao, Adrian Elms and Khalid Chowdhury in the past – acted alone, it could be that there are individuals who knew about the attack or sensed that something evil was about to happen.
If they did, then why didn’t they contact the emergency or intelligence services?
They could be family members, they could be friends. Very little has emerged in terms of a picture of Masood’s social circle – although it’s been reported that he was a married father-of-three who worried about the wellbeing of his parents.
Islamic State has claimed that Masood is one of their ‘soldiers’ who was inspired by their rhetoric.
ISIS has previously claimed responsibility for – and gloated over – attacks for which it had no prior knowledge.
But an attack like this would have required both money and planning – so was he assisted in any way with either?
Hiring the Hyundai 4×4 car for the attack would have cost money, as would prior ‘scouting’ of the planned attack which Masood is likely to have undertaken in advance.
Masood claimed he was an English teacher – but it’s claimed he had no teaching experience in any state schools.
So where did his income come from – both to live and for the attack?
Also evidence is emerging this afternoon that Masood was using the messaging app Whatsapp moments before the attack – who was he in touch with and what did he message them?
Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Rowley said this morning: "Whilst there is no evidence of further threats you will understand our determination to find out if he either:
– Acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda
– Or, if others have encouraged, supported or directed him.
"At this point I want to appeal specifically to the public.
"We remain keen to hear from anyone who knew Khalid Masood well; understands who his associates were; and can provide us with information about places he has recently visited
"There might well be people out there who did have concerns about Masood but weren’t sure or didn’t feel comfortable for whatever reason in passing information to us.
"I urge anyone with such information to contact us the Anti-Terrorist hotline which is 0800 789 321.”
2. Why were there no permanent armed police at the gates?
It’s come as something of a shock – to the media and the wider public – to discover that Masood was NOT gunned down by an armed police officer manning the gates to the Houses of Parliament.
It emerged last night that rather he was shot by a plain clothes close protection officer guarding the defence secretary Michael Fallon.
It also emerged that – despite being in an apparent key role guarding politicians – that PC Keith Palmer and his colleagues are not routinely armed while at their posts.
Instead, there are separate armed police who maintain a roaming position with the grounds of the Houses of Parliament so that would-be terrorists don’t know where they would be stationed if planning an attack.
Yet the Houses of Parliament have been thought to be a high value target for more than 15 years.
Anyone would have thought, as a symbol of our democratic freedom, that it would be the hardest place to attack in the UK – besides perhaps Buckingham Palace – given the threat posed by the rise of fanatical terrorism.
So why there were no armed police ready to take out Masood immediately the moment he ran from his crashed car into the gates is a question that must be answered – alongside how to stop this happening again in the future.
3. How could Masood maim so many on the bridge?
Following on from how he could get so close to politicians voting in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament, questions must be asked to his tactics moments earlier on the bridge.
Islamic State attacks across Europe in the last 12 months have shown that vehicles have become their latest weapon of choice.
Last July in Nice a 19-tonnne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day – resulting in the deaths of 86 people and injuring 434 others.
Then last December in Berlin a truck was driven into the Christmas market – resulting in the deaths of 12 people and injuring 56 others.
The warning signs that something similar could happen on this side of the Channel were certainly there.
Many towns and cities across the continent – and within the UK – have erected barriers or bollards near events or at locations where the public gather in large numbers.
So why wasn’t there any similar precautions on Westminster Bridge – a place packed full of tourists and Londoners going about their business on a daily basis – allowing Masood to mount the pavement and take out dozens of people?
Why was a plan to pedestrianise Parliament Square abandoned by previous London Mayor Boris Johnson – and should that be resurrected as a priority?
So far four people have died as a result of Masood’s actions – with around 50 people hurt in the attack.
Given what’s happened on the continent, some will be thinking it could have been far, far worse.
4. Who influenced and/or inspired the killer?
It’s now known that Masood had a criminal past – having apparently converted to Islam after spells in prison.
Did he make contact there with fanatics who inspired – perhaps even encouraged or helped him with – this attack?
It’s also emerged that he spent recent years living in a flat in Birmingham where he rented the car he used.
The Birmingham ‘connection’ is where police efforts appeared to immediately focus in the aftermath.
One in ten convicted Islamic terrorists in the UK come from a tiny area of the UK’s second city – the Sparkbrook district – and whether this is coincidental or significant is a question that must be asked?
The area has produced 26 or the country’s 269 known jihadis according to a recent analysis of terrorism in the UK, a 1,000-page report published earlier this month by the Henry Jackson Society, a security think-tank.
Moreover, 39 are known to have lived in the area at some time or another – around 14%.
What draws them to the location is debatable – but could there be a mastermind or extremely well-hidden cell orchestrating attacks in the location, brainwashing jihadis into action?
Are younger Muslims living nearby vulnerable to such influence?
They are questions that must be asked.
The authorities will also be keen to look at the role of social media in the attack – whether Masood was influenced by videos on YouTube, if indeed, he did act alone?
5. Why did MI5 deem Masood to NOT be a threat?
Prime Minister Theresa May – who herself was but yards from the attacker when she was bundled away to safety – yesterday addressed the first question on everyone’s lips head on: Was Masood known to the security services.
She revealed at the dispatch box in Parliament that, indeed, he was investigated for extremism "many years ago" but was assessed as low risk.
What was the information that led to that investigation at the time – and, more importantly, why was it rejected?
The security services – namely MI5 – will be kicking themselves that they could have had Masood at some point.
They are known to have foiled at least 13 planned terror attacks in recent years – and have publicly said that they cannot stop all of them.
But if he was known to be a threat – how was he able to cause such devastation to so many innocent families in the space of two minutes on Wednesday afternoon.