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London attacker 'British born and investigated for extremism'

Prime minister says man who attacked Westminster was investigated by MI5 for extremism, as IS claims him as a 'soldier'
Three people died in the car ramming attack on Westminster Bridge (Reuters)

The man who attacked London's parliament and pedestrians was British born and had been investigated for concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister said on Thursday, amid Islamic State group claims he was acting on its orders to strike nations in the anti-IS coalition.

The attacker, who was named as Khalid Masood by police on Thursday afternoon, sped across Westminster Bridge in a car, ploughing into pedestrians along the way, then ran through the gates of the nearby parliament building and fatally stabbed an unarmed policeman before being shot dead.

Masood was 52, and born in Kent, but had most recently been living in the West Midlands, police said. He was known by a variety of aliases, and was not under current investigation. 

In a statement to parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "What I can confirm is that the man was British-born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism.

"He was a peripheral figure...He was not part of the current intelligence picture. There was no prior intelligence of his intent or of the plot," she said, adding that his identity would be revealed when the investigation allowed.

Amaq, the IS propaganda arm, claimed in a message on Twitter: "The perpetrator of the attacks yesterday in front of the British parliament in London is an Islamic State soldier and he carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition."

Amaq did not name the attacker.

Four people were killed in his attack - three pedestrians on the bridge and the police officer stabbed near parliament. Forty others were injured, and 29 remain in hospital.

May said Wednesday's victims included 12 British, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one American and two Greeks, 

The mayhem in London came on the first anniversary of attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels.

Twelve people were killed in Berlin in December when a truck ploughed into a Christmas market and 84 died in July in a similar attack on Nice waterfront. IS claimed all of those attacks.

Wednesday's was the worst such attack in Britain since 2005, when 52 people were killed by suicide bombers on London's public transport system.

May told parliament: "We meet here, in the oldest of all parliaments, because we know that democracy and the values it entails will always prevail.

"A terrorist came to the place where people of all nationalities and cultures gather what it means to be free and he took out his rage indiscriminately against innocent men, women and children," said May.

A minute's silence was held in parliament and in front of police headquarters at New Scotland Yard at 9.33am, in honour of the victims - 933 was the shoulder number on the uniform of Keith Palmer, the policeman who was stabbed to death.