London: A car on Tuesday crashed into security barriers outside the UK’s Parliament at speed, injuring two persons, Scotland Yard said as its counter-terror unit arrested a man on suspicion of terrorism offences.
Police have put up a Terrorism Act cordon, a reaction to incidents of this nature near any high-security hotspots in the city.
“At 0737 hrs (1207 IST) today, a car was in collision with barriers outside the Houses of Parliament. The male driver of the car was detained by officers at the scene,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The vehicle crashed into the large steel barriers erected around the Houses of Parliament complex in Westminster in central London.
The car was seen wedged into flap-style barriers that allows vehicles access to the House of Lords, giving the impression that the driver may have been trying to gain access to the Parliament building.
Armed officers from Scotland Yard were at the scene instantly and one man, in his late 20s, was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid also thanked emergency services for their quick response.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was in close contact with police.
The Metropolitan Police said it was “keeping an open mind” regarding the motive behind the incident as its Counter-Terrorism Command is leading the investigation.
The eyewitnesses said that a man, who looked calm, was led away in handcuffs from the car by officers after the crash.
London Ambulance Service said in a statement that it had “treated two people at the scene for injuries that are not believed to be serious and have taken them to hospital”.
The police added that they do not believe any of the injuries are “life-threatening”.
The area around Parliament Square has been cordoned off as investigations continue.
The incident occurred at peak rush hour, resulting in major travel disruptions as Westminster tube station was shut down and road closures put in place.
Streets around Millbank, Parliament Square and Victoria Tower Gardens have been cordoned off.
Heavy armed police presence could be seen in the area as the incident unfolded.
Barry Williams, a BBC member of staff, said: “I heard lots of screams and turned round”.
“The car went onto the wrong side of the road to where cyclists were waiting at lights and ploughed into them. Then it swerved back across the road and accelerated as fast as possible and hit the barrier at full pelt.
“It was a small silver car and he hit it at such speed the car actually lifted off the ground and bounced,” Williams said.
Some eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke emanating from the hood of the car.
The Houses of Parliament are surrounded with security barriers of steel and concrete. Parliament is currently not sitting.
The ongoing parliamentary recess period meant there would have been no Members of Parliament (MPs) or peers in the Houses of Parliament or on their way into the building.
However, hundreds of workers and officials would have been within the complex, including construction crew involved in refurbishment work on the Palace of Westminster, which houses the iconic Big Ben.
These measures were taken following the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017 by 52-year-old UK-born Muslim convert Khalid Masood who ploughed a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge, killing four people.