Sun, Mar 26, 2017 - Page 4 News List

London attacker a convert to Islam with violent past

NY Times News Service, BIRMINGHAM, England

He described himself as “friendly and approachable.” He had a degree in economics and said he was a good listener.

Adrian Russell Ajao, the man who drove a car into pedestrians in the shadow of London’s Big Ben and then killed a police officer with a knife in Britain’s worst act of terrorism since 2005, and who called himself Khalid Masood after converting to Islam in his late 30s, was a 52-year-old husband and father.

Prone to violent outbursts as a younger man, he had led a quiet life in recent years. Most afternoons he would pick up his two youngest children from elementary school in a quiet suburban part of Birmingham, in the West Midlands of Britain.

As a portrait began to emerge of Masood, investigators were trying to piece together how a former English teacher with a penchant for bodybuilding who had spent two years living in Saudi Arabia and served two jail sentences had been set on the path of extremism, and whether he acted alone.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said that nine people were in custody and being questioned as part of the investigation.

Rowley said the death toll from the attack had risen to four as Leslie Rhodes, 75, from the Streatham area of South London, succumbed to his injuries.

The victims included at least 50 wounded.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the extent of the militant group’s connections to the assailant were unclear and some officials doubted a link.

“They adopted him, he was not one of their soldiers,” said Nazir Afzal, until 2015 the chief prosecutor for northwest England, who grew up in Birmingham.

In some respects, Masood shares many traits with the Muslim militants who have staged attacks recently in Europe.

Like those in Berlin and Nice, France, last year, he used a vehicle to mow people down. In addition, he had a substantial criminal record before his transition to Islamic militancy.

However, in other ways, his profile is highly unusual.

“Most people we prosecute are second-generation British immigrants and they are young,” Afzal said. “I can’t think of anyone in their 40s, never mind their 50s.”

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