A 25-year-old British citizen has been named by government officials as the terror suspect arrested for the killing of Sir David Amess, the Conservative MP fatally stabbed on Friday.
Amess, the representative for Southend West in Essex, was stabbed multiple times during a meeting with constituents at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. Essex Police said that a man was arrested following the incident and they were not looking for any other suspects.
One senior Whitehall official confirmed that Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old Briton of Somali heritage, was the suspect being held. One individual with knowledge of the situation said that it was unknown why Ali had targeted Amess. “It’s unfathomable,” they added.
London’s Metropolitan Police declared the killing a terror incident on Saturday, with the force’s counter-terrorism command taking over the investigation from local forces.
The Metropolitan Police on Saturday evening said the suspect had been arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows for extended detention before charge, and that magistrates had granted them until Friday, October 22, to hold the man in custody.
The force said it had conducted searches of three London addresses in connection with the investigation. It has not said where the addresses are.
Neither the force nor a Home Office official would confirm reports that Ali had been referred to the Prevent counter-terrorism programme, which aims to divert people showing signs of either Islamist or far-right radicalisation.
MI5, the UK’s domestic security service, is working closely in support of the police investigation. The Met also said a postmortem examination had been undertaken on Saturday.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer, House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and home secretary Priti Patel paid tribute to Amess in his Essex constituency.
Johnson laid a wreath that described Amess as “a fine parliamentarian and a much loved colleague and friend.” Starmer wrote that he was “a dedicated public servant, a husband and a father.”
Meanwhile Priti Patel, home secretary, said that the government would “continue to review and strengthen the measures” to protect the safety of MPs.
“We cannot be cowed by any individual or any motivation — people with motives who stop us from functioning to serve our elected democracy — so on that basis we have measures in place,” she said.
The Labour party is not expected to stand a candidate in the Southend West by-election to elect a new MP. One party insider said it would follow the Tories’ decision not to run in the 2016 Batley and Spen by-election following the death of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered outside a constituency surgery.
Amess’ killing in a place of worship shocked religious communities across the UK. Three mosques in Southend on Saturday published a joint statement denouncing the “brutal and senseless killing”.
The killing was “an indefensible atrocity, committed on the grounds of a place of worship”, the statement for Essex Jamme Masjid, Faizane Madina Masjid Southend and Southend Mosque said. “We condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”