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Before he killed four people in the deadliest attack in the United Kingdom since the bombs that exploded in London in 2005, British intelligence officials regarded Khalid Masood as a delinquent who did not pose a serious threat.
Masood, who was born in the United Kingdom and later became a Muslim, had figured on the periphery of previous terrorism investigations, placing him under the radar of the British intelligence agency MI5.
However, the 52-year-old man was not being investigated as he drove Wednesday at high speed across the Westminster Bridge, lashing out at pedestrians with a rented vehicle before heading to the outskirts of Parliament, where he was shot down after stabbing a police officer disarmed.
Although among the people with whom he had a relationship there were suspected of becoming jihadist fighters abroad, Masood “never did,” said a US government source who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Islamic state claimed Masood’s attack, but it is unclear what links – if any – to the extremist group. Police said there was no previous intelligence on their intentions to carry out an attack.
Born in Kent, southeast of London, on Christmas Day 1964, Adrian Russell Ajao – his original name – moved several times and had recently lived in Birmingham, central England.
Known by several aliases, Masood dragged a series of condemnations, but none related with terrorism, and it is not clear what was his professional occupation. In November 1983 the authorities turned their attention to him for the first time, after being convicted of vandalism, while his last conviction dates back to December 2003, for possession of a knife.
Few details have been officially given about this man and what could have prompted him to carry out the attack on Wednesday, the deadliest in Britain since the 2005 suicide bombing perpetrated by four young British jihadists, Life of 52 people.
“Our working hypothesis is that it was inspired by international terrorism,” Mark Rowley, head of the British police’s counterterrorism unit, told reporters, adding that the detectives were interrogating nine people under arrest after making two further arrests “Significant” in central and northwestern England.
Masood could have rented an apartment in the vicinity of the Edgbaston area in Birmingham, Not far from the Enterprise offices. This is one of the properties that were registered by armed agents.
On the eve of the attack, Masood spent his last night in a cheap hotel in Brighton – on the south coast of the country – where he ordered a kebab to take away, the Sun newspaper said.