AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
British police are trying to learn more about the man who drove a car into a security barrier at the Houses of Parliament in London early this morning. The incident which is being investigated as a terror attack left three people injured. None of their injuries are life-threatening. If terrorism is found to be the motive, today's crash would be the fifth attack in the British capital in less than 18 months. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from the scene.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: I'm standing between Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, and it was here around rush hour this morning that the man who's in his late 20s drove a silver Ford Fiesta crossed the median, hit at least a couple of cyclists and then appeared to try to hit several police officers who had to jump out of the way before the man crashed the car into a barricade in front of Parliament.
Jason Williams, who was here at the time, described what happened next to Britain's Sky News.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JASON WILLIAMS: Specialist police have arrived in marked cars with rifles, guns. They're removed the man and I presume arrested him.
LANGFITT: Police didn't name the man who is in custody but said he was a 29-year-old U.K. national. The car, which is privately owned, came from Birmingham to London late Monday night.
HELEN FRIEL: I'm surprised. I thought the terrorist attacks were all over.
LANGFITT: Helen Friel is a retired research chemist who lives south of London. Like many here, she'd relaxed since the last attack on the city, a botched tube bomb 11 months ago. That and two previous attacks here were perpetrated by Muslim extremists. Police have given no motive for today's attack. Despite this morning's violence, Friel was outside of Parliament this afternoon showing her relative the sights.
FRIEL: And I would have thought twice about coming in today if we didn't have my brother-in-law staying. I would have said it's probably safer to just stay at home. But it's unlikely to happen again so soon I think.
LANGFITT: That was a typically pragmatic response today from many Londoners who lived through the IRA bombings going back to the 1970s and traditionally take terror attacks in stride. Raffaello Pantucci runs international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank.
RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI: This attitude of, you know, keep calm, and carry on is something that is perennial. And I think the Brits and Londoners in particular pride themselves of.
LANGFITT: Pantucci said one reason there may have been a lull in the violence until now is because British police have become more aggressive and proactive in targeting people they suspect of planning attacks.
PANTUCCI: You know, if they didn't have a bomb on them or a gun on them, it was sort of difficult to piece together exactly what they were doing. Now I think the police have decided that, you know, actually, we will disrupt people much earlier because of the nature of plotting that we're seeing, the ease with which it can happen and the inspirational kind of effect that a successful attack can have, that we have to kind of disrupt earlier.
LANGFITT: More than 80 people were killed in a truck attack in the French city of Nice in 2016. Ever since, vehicle attacks like the one today have become the method of choice for many terrorists in Europe. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.