Authorities identified the terrorist who attacked Westminster Bridge and Parliament on Wednesday as a native-born Briton as ISIS formally claimed credit for the carnage.
The UK’s Metropolitan Police also confirmed that an American in London to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary was among the dead.
Kurt Cochran, 54, of West Bountiful, Utah, was thrown off the bridge and landed on concrete below when the terrorist’s Hyundai SUV plowed through pedestrians in the shadow of Big Ben. Cochran’s wife, Melissa Payne Cochran, suffered a broken leg and rib as well as a head wound, and was expected to recover, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The Cochrans were planning to return today from a trip through Europe, ending in London as Payne Cochran’s parents served as Mormon missionaries there.
“We express our gratitude to the emergency and medical personnel who have cared for them and ask for your prayers on behalf of Melissa and our family. Kurt will be greatly missed, and we ask for privacy as our family mourns and as Melissa recovers from her injuries,” the family said in a statement. A GoFundMe page was established to help Payne Cochran; the couple ran a local recording studio.
Aysha Frade, 43, of London was heading from her job as a Spanish department head at a local college to pick up her two young girls from school when she was struck and killed, the Telegraph reported.
Five people remained in critical condition, two of those with life-threatening injuries. Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament today that victims included 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Irish, one Chinese, one Italian and two Greeks. Two of the three police officers also wounded were listed in serious condition.
The police officer stabbed to death outside Parliament after the bridge attack was identified as Keith Palmer, 48, of the Metropolitan Diplomatic Protection Group. “I’ve known Keith for 25 years. We served together in the Royal Artillery before he became a copper. A lovely man, a friend. I’m heartbroken,” tweeted Member of Parliament James Cleverly.
“Keith Palmer was killed while bravely doing his duty – protecting our city and the heart of our democracy from those who want to destroy our way of life,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Palmer was unarmed at the time of the attack. An armed officer, reportedly a member of the defense minister’s security detail, arrived and fatally shot his assailant, Khalid Masood, 52, of West Midlands. Masood was born in Kent and had a history of criminal convictions not related to terrorism, with his last conviction for possession of a knife in 2003.
The SUV used in the attack was reportedly rented from Enterprise, with the BBC reporting that Masood listed his profession as teacher.
“His identity is known to the police and MI5 … the man was British-born,” May said. “…Some years ago, he was once investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure.”
“The case is historic – he was not part of the current intelligence picture,” she added. “There was no prior intelligence of his intent – or of the plot. Intensive investigations continue.”
May said the country’s threat level would remain at “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely – the level at which the UK was at before the attack. The highest level, “critical,” would mean there is specific intelligence that an attack is imminent.
The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency’s statement was similar to those issued after other previously claimed attacks around the world, beginning by saying a “source” told the agency the news.
“The attacker yesterday in front of the British parliament in London was a soldier of the Islamic State, executing the operation in response to calls to target citizens of coalition nations,” Amaq said.
May told Parliament “our working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by Islamist ideology.”
“We know the threat from Islamist terrorism is very real,” she said. “But while the public should remain utterly vigilant they should not – and will not – be cowed by this threat.”
Police have searched a number of addresses — one in Carmarthenshire, three in Birmingham, one in east London, one in Brighton and one in southeast London — and made several arrests overnight.
“A 39-year-old woman was arrested at an address in east London on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts,” Met police said. “A 21-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man were arrested at an address in Birmingham. A 26-year-old woman and three men aged 28, 27 and 26 years old were arrested at a separate address in Birmingham. All six were arrested on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts.”
“A 58-year-old man was also arrested this morning at a separate address in Birmingham on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts.” Officials did not elaborate on connections to Masood.