Minutes before the terrorist rampage in London on Wednesday, attacker Khalid Masood sent a WhatsApp message to an unknown person, authorities said Sunday. The message’s contents — and its intended recipient — can't be accessed by police because the popular messaging service encrypted them, a top British security official said.
Masood used WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, just minutes before the attack that left three pedestrians and one police officer dead and dozens more wounded, The Associated Press reported.
Police have arrested 12 people in the investigation, including a 30-year-old man who was detained in Birmingham on Sunday on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts, the BBC reported. Masood lived in Birmingham.
Nine people arrested after the attack have been freed without charges, while one person was released on bail, AP reported.
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Appearing on BBC and Sky News on Sunday, Britain’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, urged WhatsApp and other encrypted services to make their platforms accessible to intelligence services and police as they try to find out more about the attacks.
“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp — and there are plenty of others like that — don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” she said.
A WhatsApp spokeswoman said the company was "horrified at the attack" and was co-operating with the investigation, the BBC reported.
Khalid Masood, 52, has been identified by British officials as the man believed to be responsible for the London terrorist attacks. USA TODAY
Masood drove a rented SUV into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before smashing it into Parliament’s gates and rushing onto the grounds, where he fatally stabbed a policeman and was shot by other officers. A detailed police reconstruction found that the entire attack lasted 82 seconds. Scotland Yard has said it believes Masood, 52, acted alone.
Police are trying to pinpoint his motive and identify any possible accomplices, making the WhatsApp message a potential clue to his state of mind and social media contacts.
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