A Liverpool taxi driver is being praised for his “heroic efforts” for locking a passenger inside his cab during an explosion outside a hospital in what police are calling a terrorist incident.
British police on Monday named the man behind the blast as 32-year old Emad Al Swealmeen. The man is connected to two addresses where searches are still ongoing, police said.
“Our inquiries indicate that an improvised explosive device was manufactured, and our assumption so far is that it was built by the passenger in the taxi,” said Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson of Counter-Terrorism Policing Northwest.
“Although the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident,” he said.
Liverpool taxi blast being treated as ‘terrorist incident,’ U.K. police say
“We cannot at this time draw any connection with this but it is a line of inquiry which we are pursuing,” said Jackson.
Police also conducted a controlled explosion in a taxi outside the hospital on Monday, as “a precaution” and “as part of the ongoing investigation.” They said there is no wider risk to the public.
Three men aged 29, 26 and 21 were arrested on Sunday, and Jackson said on Monday another man aged 20 had been arrested. He added that “significant items” had been found at one address while several other addresses had been or would be searched.
He said the passenger had boarded the taxi at a location in Liverpool and asked to be driven to the hospital, which was about a 10-minute drive away. The blast took place within the car as it approached the drop-off point in front of the hospital.
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The driver, named locally as David Perry, managed to escape from the car. He was treated in hospital and released.
Jackson said it was unclear why the passenger had wanted to go to the hospital or what had caused the sudden explosion of the device.
Earlier, Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson described the actions of the taxi driver as heroic. The BBC said he had locked the passenger inside the vehicle.
“The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital,” she told BBC radio.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the driver’s “incredible presence of mind and bravery,” though he did not elaborate on the circumstances. Johnson planned to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee on Monday to discuss the blast.
— with files from The Associated Press and Global News