London attack: Direct hand by ISIS unlikely, counterterrorism expert says

Investigators do not currently see a direct ISIS hand in this week's attack in London, a British counterterrorism official told CNN on Saturday.

Khalid Masood was active on the encryption messaging service WhatsApp two minutes before he started his attack Wednesday on Westminster Bridge, but no evidence has emerged he was communicating with ISIS at any point, the official told CNN.

Investigators are looking into communications he had with individuals leading up to the attack that left four dead, including a police officer, the official added.

ISIS has used encryption apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram to communicate with and provide direction to extremists in recent plots and attacks in Europe, including a July bombing at a music festival in Ansbach, Germany.

But investigators currently believe Masood was more likely inspired by ISIS rather than directed by the terrorist group, the official told CNN.

A factor in this early assessment, the official said, is that ISIS has not posted a video showing a pledge of allegiance from the attacker. In contrast, ISIS posted a video from the Berlin truck attack suspect shortly after Italian police killed him near Milan, the official said.

British officials suspect ISIS likely claimed credit for the London attack after learning about it in the news.

The official cautioned that much is still unknown about the case and new information may change investigators' understanding of it.

Investigators are still assessing whether the attacker plotted alone or acted as part of a broader conspiracy. They're continuing to probe his contacts in radical circles in Birmingham, Luton and London, the official told CNN.

Two released with one man still in custody

Eleven arrests have been made in the fast-moving investigation since Wednesday's attack.

Only one, a 58-year-old man who was arrested Thursday in Birmingham, remains in custody.

Two people were released Saturday "with no further action," London's Metropolitan Police said. They were a man, 27, arrested in Birmingham and a woman, 39, arrested in east London.

A woman, 32, arrested in Manchester is out on bail pending further enquiries.

The other seven arrested in connection with the attack were all released "with no further action."

All but one of those were detained on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts.

82-second attack, a 'forever' memory of terror

On Saturday, authorities released a timeline of the attack, saying it lasted 82 seconds and started at 2:40 p.m. local time when the car Masood was driving over Westminster Bridge first mounted the sidewalk.

The car continued along the footpath and the road before crashing into the perimeter fence of the Palace of Westminster, the statement from the London Metropolitan Police said. Masood left the vehicle and was shot by a police officer.

"Whilst the attack lasted only 82 seconds it will remain in the memories of many forever," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who is the Senior National Coordinator for UK Counter Terrorism Policing.

Police also issued a statement from the family of police officer Keith Palmer, one of the four people killed in the attack.

They thanked people who have supported them and said, "We care about him being remembered for his selfless bravery and loving nature. We miss him so much, but we are also incredibly proud of Keith."

Investigation underway

On Friday, Britain's most senior counterterror police officer, Mark Rowley, said authorities are working to establish if Masood, 52, "acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda or, if others have encouraged, supported or directed him."

Rowley said 16 searches at various locations have concluded but that five others were ongoing. Officers have seized 2,700 items, including "massive amounts" of computer data, and have had contact with 3,500 witnesses to the attack, many of them of different nationalities, he added.

Authorities are investigating how the perpetrator, who used multiple aliases, became radicalized. He was born Adrian Russell Ajao but also used the name Adrian Elms, police confirmed Friday.

Rowley said: "Clearly that's the main line of our investigation -- is what led him to be radicalized. Was it through influences in a community, influences from overseas or through online propaganda?"

He appealed for anyone who knew Masood well or was aware of his recent movements to get in touch with authorities.

Born in Kent, Masood had previous convictions, including some for violent offenses but none for terrorism, police said. His most recent conviction was in 2003 for possession of a knife.

Masood visited Saudi Arabia several times and was an English teacher there periodically between 2005 and 2009, according to a statement from the Saudi Embassy in London published on the state-run Saudi Press Agency. He wasn't on the radar of security services, it said.

Masood didn't teach in any English-language school in the UK, Britain's Department for Education previously said, citing its records. His criminal record would have prevented him for passing the necessary checks to become a qualified teacher.

Queen bestows honors

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II honored two members of the UK Parliament for their heroics in the aftermath of the attack, Downing Street announced Friday.

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood tried to save the life of Keith Palmer, the police officer fatally stabbed by the assailant. Ellwood along with Security Minister Ben Wallace, who helped coordinate the government's response, have been approved as members of the Queen's Privy Council.

The pair will now be entitled to be referred to as "right honorable" as members of the group of advisers to the monarchy that includes present or former members of the House of Commons or House of Lords.

Attack victims

In addition to four deaths, this week's attack injured at least 50 others, 31 of whom needed hospital treatment, Rowley said. Two people are in critical condition, and another has life-threatening injuries.

Two police officers also remain hospitalized with significant injuries, Rowley said. They were injured as the attacker plowed through crowds walking across Westminster Bridge.

American tourist Kurt Cochran and college administrator Aysha Frade, a British citizen with Spanish roots, as well as Palmer died Wednesday. A fourth victim, Leslie Rhodes, 75, from Streatham in south London, died Thursday night after his life support was withdrawn, according to the Metropolitan Police.

Romania's Foreign Ministry said a Romanian woman remained in critical condition after undergoing surgery.

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.