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British Security Services Engaged in Almost 700 Active Terror Investigations

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DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

UK security services are investigating almost 700 live terror probes, Downing Street has revealed, as Theresa May described Tuesday’s apparent terror incident as an attack on “our precious values of tolerance and freedom”.

The figures showing the number of live terror investigations surged to 676 at the end of June from more than 500 just three months earlier, were confirmed by the Prime Minister after a Sudanese origin immigrant ploughed a car into cyclists and pedestrians outside Parliament. The event is being treated as a terror incident by London police.

Warning that the threat from terrorism is “one of the starkest we have faced”, officials also reported that Britain saw the highest number of terror arrests since records began in the year to December — 412 out of a total of 2,029 arrests made since 2010.

May described the incident, which took place 15 months after six people were killed and 50 injured in the Westminster Bridge attack, as “appalling”, but urged Britons to “carry on as normal” claiming “the aim of extremists … is to divide us”.

“For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door,” her office said in a statement.

“The threat to the United Kingdom from terrorism remains severe. I would urge the public to remain vigilant – but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year.

“The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed.”

Salih Khater, a Sudanese origin immigrant who acquired UK citizenship since coming to Britain five years ago was arrested on Tuesday after crashing a silver Ford Fiesta into cyclists at 7.37am, during the morning rush hour.

Before then, the 29-year-old is believed to have spent several hours driving around London after he arrived in the capital at midnight, having traveled from Birmingham, Britain’s second city. He reportedly lived there in the Sparkhill suburb, in an apartment located just ten minutes walk from the address of Islamic extremist Khalid Masood, who launched a deadly attack on Westminster last year.

Addresses in Birmingham and Nottingham were being searched on Tuesday night while Khater was investigated by detectives, who have said their priority is to “understand the motivation behind this incident”.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu reported Tuesday that the suspect, who was initially arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism, was “not cooperating” with police. On Wednesday police revealed Khater had been further arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

According to the Telegraph, the suspect was a farmer’s son who grew up in east-central Sudan before moving to Britain, while the Guardian reports he is described by neighbours as a “quiet” character who was “always smoking shisha and looking at his phone”.

Coventry University confirmed Khater had studied accountancy at the institution between September 2017 and May 2018, when he was kicked out for having failed the first year of his course.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who previously labelled terrorism “part and parcel” of living in a big city, has called for Parliament Square to be pedestrianised so as to keep the area “safe from hostile vehicles” in the wake of Tuesday’s attack.

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