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  1. ITV Report

Parliament car crash suspect Salih Khater described as ‘kind, quiet' footballer who is 'always smiling’

The man arrested after a car crash outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday is a “very kind, quiet and decent person” that is “always smiling”, a friend has told ITV News.

Salih Khater, 29, was held on suspicion of terror offences and attempted murder after Tuesday's rush-hour crash in central London.

ITV News has spoken to those who know him as a keen footballer and active member of the Sudanese community in Birmingham.

Anwar Mukhta is responsible for sporting activities at the Birmingham Sudanese Community Association and has known Khater for eight years.

Mr Mukhta told ITV News "you would not expect what happened is from him. I’d put my word on it – it is an accident, definitely an accident".

Mr Mukhta describes the 29-year-old as a "very kind and quiet and decent person", adding: "We play football since he came here and he was always involved."

He went on: "All this talk going on now is all coming to a lie at the end - because the accident – it is an accident. It is nothing to do with terrorists or any kind of organisation that tried to make any kind of attack to government department."

Nassar Mahmood, a trustee of Birmingham Central Mosque, told ITV News that Khater was perceived as an active person and not "the loner type".

Mr Mahmood told ITV News "this young man was on his way to the Sudanese embassy - he wanted a visa to go back to Sudan - he was a British national.

"He had all his paperwork with him, he was in his own car, he went early on Sunday night rather than go in the morning and he was spending some time before the embassy opened [in London]."

Mr Mahmood said those who knew Khater in the community considered him to be "quite sociable person".

He went on: "He is a keen footballer, he plays regularly, he is someone who is quite active - he’s not the kind of person that… the loner-type person."

"He wasn’t known to be a fervent worshipper and as far as we know he never attended the mosque here."

Mr Mahmood also refused to jump to conclusions after Khater's arrest.

"I am always cautious of apportioning blame or guilt," he said. "The police are still investigating, they are still questioning him and I would say a man is innocent until he is proven guilty.

"I think we need to take time and go over everything and come to the right conclusion."

Coventry University has confirmed that Khater was enrolled between September 2017 and May 2018. Credit: Facebook

What else is known about Khater?

Khater was arrested following the crash at 7.37am on Tuesday by armed officers.

He is said not to be co-operating with officers and was not known to police or MI5 before the incident.

Police claim he was born, studied and grew up abroad before acquiring British citizenship when he moved to the UK in recent years.

He has posted images of himself using a laptop on a train and one of him on a mobile phone.

Khater is thought to have lived in a first-floor flat in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, for around nine months until he moved out around four-months-ago.

Residents who knew Khater described him as a quiet man who frequently visited a shisha lounge and internet cafe on the city's Stratford Road.

Police have visited the Bunna internet cafe on Tuesday and Wednesday, and are believed to be reviewing CCTV footage from the local area.

The Bunna internet cafe. Credit: PA

Local resident Ahmed Abdi said he had known Khater for around 18 months said: "I recognised his picture from the news and I was shocked.

"He was very quiet and he used to drive a small white car, a really old one.

"He was very, very quiet and he never spoke to anybody. He would say nothing to nobody."

Detectivestake a closer look at the Ford Fiesta used in the attack. Credit: PA

Coventry University has confirmed that, between September 2017 and May 2018, Khater studied accountancy but is no longer enrolled at the educational establishment.

Khater’s Facebook page states that he lives in Birmingham, works as a shop manager, and has previously studied at Sudan University of Science and Technology.

He has shared music videos from artists including French-Canadian singer Celine Dion, as well as Eminem’s Love The Way You Lie featuring Rihanna.

He has also posted images of himself using a laptop on a train and one of him on a mobile phone, as well as desert scenes, and one of Nelson Mandela.

One of the images Khater posted of himself.

Likes on the page include Fort Wayne Indiana, London Metropolitan University, I Am Sudanese and the sport of basketball, with status updates in both English and Arabic.

As well as listing his favourite quote as “love is only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend” (sic), he also states he is interested in both men and women.

In April he liked a blog post about how a Birmingham school is giving students the skills to deal with and protect themselves from extremism and radicalisation.

Detectives have established that the Ford Fiesta used in the suspected terror attack, registration number FL10 CWZ and which is privately owned, travelled from Birmingham to London late on Monday night, arriving in the London area just after midnight.

The vehicle was in the Tottenham Court Road area between approximately 1.30am until 5.55am.

It was then driven around the Westminster and Whitehall area from approximately 6:00am and stayed in this area until the time of the incident.

Police have said they are still working to clarify the movements of the suspect during the period of time he spent in the Tottenham Court Road area.

Unable to confirm if he had been driving around, parked or had been on foot, officers have appealed for members of the public to come forward with any information.

In footage aired by the BBC, the silver Ford Fiesta can be seen coming along the road next to Parliament Square before moving to turn right towards Westminster Abbey.

As an ambulance passes the car on its right-hand side, the vehicle swerves left, crossing oncoming traffic and a pavement before entering a small road and crashing into a security barrier.

The suspect is taken away by police. Credit: Good Morning Britain/ITV

A police officer can be seen jumping another barrier that runs along the side of the road to get away.

Scotland Yard's head of counter-terrorism Neil Basu said the car was not being pursued by police and although the incident appeared to be "deliberate" he "could not comment" on the driver's motives, and whether the police officers were targeted.