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BREAKING: London taxi driver thwarts terror attack

Not only did a Liverpool taxi driver thwart a terrorist attack, his quick thinking may have allowed British police to roll up a terror network cell. Surveillance video caught the moment that the driver rushed to the entrance of a local women’s hospital and the car exploded — after the driver had locked the suspiciously acting occupant in the rear.

The driver managed to get away with relatively minor injuries. The video shows David Perry exiting moments after the blast:

UK police have declared a terrorist incident after a man apparently brought an improvised explosive device into a taxi in Liverpool, causing a blast outside a hospital.

Officers said Monday that they believe the passenger entered the vehicle with a device that suddenly went off.

The suspect died in the explosion but the taxi driver managed to escape. Police have arrested four men, all aged in their 20s, and believe they know the identity of the suspect.

Boris Johnson praised Perry without identifying him, while cautioning not to jump to conclusions about the nature of the attack. Police confirmed shortly afterward that the man in the back of the car had intended to carry out a terrorist attack:

Boris Johnson said it was premature to say what type of crime took place outside the entrance to the Crown Street hospital, although it has since been declared a terrorist incident.

Merseyside Police are now working with the Counter-Terrorism Unit within Greater Manchester Police to establish what happened on Sunday, November 14 at 10.59am in the explosion that left one dead and another man injured. …

Speaking at a medical centre in east London the Prime Minister said: “This is an ongoing investigation so I can’t comment on the details or exactly what type of incident it was, what type of crime it may have been.

“But it does look as though the taxi driver in question did behave with incredible presence of mind and bravery.”

This raises a number of questions, however, with the first being: what kind of terrorist takes a cab to their attack target? Wouldn’t it make more sense to steal a car? This looks like amateur hour, which might give us a hint as to the kind of terrorists who put this operation together. Clearly the taxi wasn’t supposed to be part of the attack, as the explosive used only was sufficient to kill at a short range. It didn’t kill or incapacitate the driver, who was close but presumably behind a partition in the vehicle, so the design strongly suggests that the bomber intended to walk up to his target before detonating his IED.

In fact, the driver has already been released from the hospital:

The taxi driver hurt in the terror attack outside Liverpool Women’s has been released from hospital.

In a press briefing today, Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, head of Counter Terrorism North West, confirmed the driver had been treated for his injuries.

The driver has been named locally as David Perry and is believed to work for Delta Taxis.

That prompts the second question: who or what was the target? The hospital seems like a weird choice for a terrorist attack, but it would certainly be a “soft” enough target to get past security easily and newsy enough. Otherwise, CBS’ report mentions the Remembrance Day ceremonies, which had a thousand or more British veterans in attendance. However, one of those in charge of the investigation cautioned against assuming a connection:

Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West Russ Jackson said the passenger appeared to have made an improvised explosive device which caused the explosion.

He added that while the motivation is “yet to be understood” the explosion “has been declared a terrorist incident”.

Officers investigating the taxi explosion “cannot at this time draw any connection” with Remembrance Sunday events near the hospital, Mr Jackson said.

Given the relatively low power of the device, one has to wonder whether the terrorists were seeking to assassinate someone rather than just conduct a random attack. But what kind of target in Liverpool would be worth a suicide bombing, which this appears to have been? Were there any visiting dignitaries at the Remembrance Day celebration or perhaps being treated at the hospital? Police will certainly hope to get some answers to that question when they interrogate those arrested in the wake of the bombing.

The third question is motive, of course. We can probably guess the motive, but with Northern Ireland getting a bit more restive of late and other social issues hitting extremes, we should probably not make any assumptions. Even the usual radical-Islamist suspects don’t quite fit this scenario, though. ISIS, for instance, usually likes to inexpensively “inspire” lone wolves through the Internet rather than invest significant time and treasure into building terror cells in the West. If police have rounded up four more people connected to this crime, then we’re talking about a coordinated effort that would look more like al-Qaeda — but they’re experienced enough to not take a taxi to their terrorist attack. Plus, AQ’s signature for bombings usually includes multiple devices aimed at high-traffic targets, and doesn’t normally involve suicide attacks (9/11 being a notable exception). It’s possible that either of these groups radicalized a group of local idiots into forming a one-off cell, but they probably would have gotten better guidance at target selection and operations. It’s a puzzler, and worth watching.

In the meantime, we can certainly admire David Perry and his courage in defying a terrorist and living to tell the tale. Thanks to this taxi driver, several other people who might otherwise be dead can live to hear his tale, too.