The explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital has been declared a terrorist incident after police confirmed that the cause was a bomb.
Counter-terror officers said the passenger inside a taxi that pulled up shortly before the blast on Remembrance Sunday is believed to have built the improvised explosive device (IED).
Assistant chief constable Russ Jackson, the head of Counter Terror Police North West, told a press conference the motivation had not been established.
“Our enquiries indicate that an improvised explosive device has been manufactured and our assumption so far is that this was built by the passenger in the taxi,” he said.
“The reason why he then took it to the Women's Hospital is unknown, as is the reason for its sudden explosion.
“We are of course aware that there were remembrance events just a short distance away from the hospital and that the ignition occurred shortly before 11am.
“We cannot at this time draw any connection with this but it is a line of inquiry we are pursuing.”
The prime minister was to chair a meeting of the government's Cobra emergencies committee to discuss the blast on Monday afternoon.
Downing Street said senior police and counter-terror officers would join ministers at the Whitehall meeting.
Mr Jackson said the bomber was picked up in the Rutland Avenue area of Liverpool, and asked to be taken to the Women's Hospital.
The explosion occurred as the the taxi approached a drop off point outside the entrance, he said, and the taxi driver “remarkably escaped from the cab”.
The man, who is being hailed as a hero, was treated in hospital for his injuries and has now been discharged.
A fourth suspect was arrested in connection with the bombing on Monday morning. The 20-year-old man was detained in the Kensington Area under the Terrorism Act.
Three other men, arrested in Sutcliffe Street on Sunday, remain in custody and police are continuing to search a home at that location.
Mr Jackson said police believe they know the identity of the taxi passenger, who carried the device into the taxi, but cannot yet confirm it.
The senior officer confirmed that the arrested men were believed to be "associates" of the taxi passenger, and that investigators were also looking at the suspected bomber’s telephone records and purchases.
He said police had "attributed" the taxi passenger to both the addresses officers have been searching but were uncertain which address he lived at.
Mr Jackson added that investigators have found “significant items” at a property in Rutland Avenue, Sefton Park, and eight families had been evacuated from surrounding homes. Such precautions are taken in locations where explosive materials are suspected or found.
“Our enquiries will now continue to seek to understand how the device was built, the motivation for the incident and to understand if anyone else was involved in it,” he said.
“We understand that this news will be of concern to the people of Liverpool and Merseyside and the rest of the UK, but it is a reminder that the threat from terrorism remains significant.”
Earlier on Monday, the prime minister praised the taxi driver caught up in the explosion for acting with “incredible presence of mind and bravery”.
Boris Johnson said: “It does look as though the taxi driver in question did behave with incredible presence of mind and bravery.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson said: “The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital.
“Our thanks go to him and our emergency services, and authorities have worked through the night to divert anything further and we've all been on standby and in constant contact to provide any support that's needed.”
In a Facebook group used by private hire drivers in Liverpool, friends of the driver said he had “legged it” just in time.
“He is a hero, when he noticed the bomb he locked the scumbag in the car but took the brunt of the blast,” one man wrote.
“He’s had his ear sewn back on, got burns and shrapnel wounds and other pretty serious injuries.”
Mr Jackson said he could not confirm reports the driver had locked the doors of the taxi before the explosion, and that police had not yet got a full account from him.
He said it appeared to have been a previously “unremarkable” journey to the hospital.
Police were called to reports of a car explosion at 10.59am, shortly before the 11am silence that annually marks Remembrance Sunday in Britain.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital is a short distance from the city’s cathedral, where a service of remembrance attended by thousands of military personnel, veterans and members of the public was taking place at the time.
The annual event included a two-minute silence, which is observed nationally on Remembrance Sunday, at 11am followed by a military parade from the cathedral.
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