UK police: Blast outside hospital was terrorist incident

An armed police officer holds a breaching shotgun, used to blast the hinges off a door, at an address in Rutland Avenue in Sefton Park, after an explosion at the Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, Monday. British police arrested three men under terrorism laws Sunday after a car exploded outside the hospital, killing one man and injuring another.

An armed police officer holds a breaching shotgun, used to blast the hinges off a door, at an address in Rutland Avenue in Sefton Park, after an explosion at the Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, Monday. British police arrested three men under terrorism laws Sunday after a car exploded outside the hospital, killing one man and injuring another. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LONDON — A blast in a taxi outside a hospital in England that killed a man was caused by an improvised explosive device and is being treated as a terrorist incident, but the motive remains unclear, police said Monday.

Russ Jackson, the head of Counterterrorism Policing in northwest England, said Sunday's explosion at Liverpool Women's Hospital was caused by "the ignition of an explosive device" that was brought into the taxi by a passenger.

The male passenger died in the explosion and fire that followed, and the taxi driver was injured.

Jackson said "inquiries will now continue to seek to understand how the device was built, the motivation for the incident and to understand if anyone else was involved in it."

Three men in their 20s were arrested elsewhere in the city under the Terrorism Act on Sunday, and a fourth was detained on Monday. All are believed to be "associates" of the dead passenger, police said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to chair a meeting of the government's COBRA crisis committee on Monday in response to the blast.

Suspicions about a motive for the explosion have been aroused by the timing — just before 11 a.m. London time on Remembrance Sunday, the moment people across Britain hold services in memory of those killed in wars.

Jackson said investigators had not found a link to remembrance events, "but it is a line of inquiry we are pursuing."

"Although the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident," he said at a press briefing.

He said the passenger had been picked up by the cab a 10-minute drive away and asked to be taken to the hospital, where the explosion occurred. The driver, named locally as David Perry, managed to escape from the car. He was treated at a hospital and later released.

Police said officers had searched two addresses in the city linked to the passenger and found "significant items" at one of them.

Emergency services outside Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, Sunday. Counter-terrorism police in Britain are investigating an explosion at a hospital Sunday in the city of Liverpool that killed one person and injured another. Police were called to reports of a blast involving a taxi that pulled up at Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before the explosion took place Sunday morning.
Emergency services outside Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, Sunday. Counter-terrorism police in Britain are investigating an explosion at a hospital Sunday in the city of Liverpool that killed one person and injured another. Police were called to reports of a blast involving a taxi that pulled up at Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before the explosion took place Sunday morning. (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson said the taxi driver locked the doors of his cab so the passenger couldn't leave. Police did not confirm that account.

"The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital," Anderson told the BBC.

The prime minister also said the driver appeared to have behaved "with incredible presence of mind and bravery."

Nick Aldworth, a former senior terrorism investigator in Britain, said the taxi appeared to have sustained "a lot of fire damage with very little blast damage."

He said that "whatever was in that vehicle was either a low yield or didn't work properly, or possibly an incendiary. So I think it's very much open to debate at the moment about what has happened."

Britain's official threat level from terrorism stands at "substantial," the middle rung on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is likely. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre sets the threat level based on intelligence about international terrorism at home and overseas.

Jill Lawless

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast