The attack against the Palace of Westminster and innocent civilians along Westminster Bridge continues to follow a recent pattern of terror incidents, namely, an asymmetrical attack using common items such as vehicles and knives against crowded, public targets. At first glance, the attacks in Nice, Berlin and London would appear to be random acts of violence carried out by lone-wolves radicalized on-line, with little pre-attack preparation. Our analysis would argue this last point. In looking at the London attack specifically, a couple of things stand out to us:
- The attacker chose an exposed and accessible sidewalk and route to the most exposed gate on the Parliamentary Estate. We predict investigators will probably discover CCTV footage from the area that shows the suspect conducting surveillance of the target area.
- The police officers at the Carriage Gates (where the attack occurred) are unarmed. It is likely the attacker knew this from previous reconnaissance. What he perhaps did not account for was the fact that there happened to be armed protection officers of an elected senior politician at the gate who intervened and shot the attacker.
- The timing of the incident would seem to indicate the attacker had studied traffic patterns along the bridge and around the Parliamentary Estate to ensure a high civilian casualty rate. The attacker may have also known that on Wednesdays the Prime Minister is there to answer questions at noon. As such, it is a busier day inside the estate with more politicians present then most other weekdays.
While many more details related to this attack will likely be made public in the coming days and weeks, we believe it is highly likely the evidence will show that this was far from a random act of violence, and probably preceded by at least some pre-attack planning and intelligence collection by the individual(s) involved.