The explosion in a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital has been declared a terrorist attack and the suspect killed in the blast has been named.
Emad Al Swealmeen died after a homemade bomb exploded in the vehicle outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.
The 32-year-old, known to friends in the UK as Enzo Almeni, was the sole passenger. The taxi driver, David Perry, was injured but managed to escape and has since been released from hospital.
Four men - aged 20, 21, 26 and 29 - believed to be “associates” of the taxi passenger were arrested in the Kensington area of the city and subsequently released.
Counter-terrorism police are now leading the investigation into the incident, aided by the security service, MI5.
Police were called at 10.59am on Sunday 14 November to reports of a car explosion outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
A video has emerged showing David Perry’s taxi pulling up outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital and a blast going off inside.
Mr Perry can be seen opening the door staggering out before the vehicle bursts into flames. He has since been discharged from hospital.
Phil Garrigan, chief fire officer of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said the fire was “fully developed” when fire engines arrived shortly after 11am.
Mr Perry picked up the suspect in the Rutland Avenue area of Liverpool, roughly a 10-minute drive from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, according to Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, from Counter Terrorism Policing North West.
The hospital was a short walk from the city’s cathedral, which was hosting a large Remembrance Sunday service attended by more than 2,000 people who were about to observe the traditional two-minute silence at 11am.
Big screens had been set up in the grounds of the cathedral so people who were not able to get into the service could watch it outside. Local roads had also been closed for a parade linked to the event.
Who is behind the blast?
The suspect who died in the explosion has been named by counter-terror police as 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen, also known as Enzo Almeni.
He arrived in Britain before 2014 from the Middle East and was not previously known to the security services.
According to reports, he converted to Christianity and had been supported by a Christian couple who at one stage housed him in Liverpool.
Malcolm Hitchcott and his wife Elizabeth said the suspect had first come to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in 2015 and wanted to convert from Islam to Christianity.
He told The Sun: “He was destitute at that time and we took him in. The UK asylum people were never convinced he was Syrian and he was refused asylum in 2014.
“He had his case rejected because he has been sectioned due to some mental health incident where he was waving a knife at people from an overpass.”
He was reported to have converted to Christianity at the city’s Anglican Cathedral in 2017.
Ms Hitchcott told ITV there was “never any suggestion of anything amiss” during the eight months Al Swealmeen lived with the couple.
Speaking to the BBC, she said: “We’re just so, so sad. We just loved him, he was a lovely guy.” Asked if the couple was shocked by the incident, she added: “Very.”
The suspect, described as artistic and a motor racing fan by the couple, was reported to have changed his name to the Italian name Enzo – after the renowned racing driver Enzo Ferrari.
The Sun reported he was a Jordanian national who had spent time in Iraq, where his mother was from, however this has not been officially confirmed.
Four men in their 20s were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act in the Kensington area of Liverpool following the incident.
Three of the men - aged 21, 26 and 29 - were on Sunday night arrested in Sutcliffe Street, where witnesses described seeing armed officers approach a terraced house only a few hours after the hospital blast. A fourth man, aged 20, was also detained in the same area of the city on Monday.
All four have since been released from police custody following interviews.
Two addresses, one in Sutcliffe Street and another in Rutland Avenue, have been searched, with the second address yielding “significant items”, according to counter-terrorism police.
Police believe Al Swealmeen lived at the Sutcliffe Street address for some time and had recently rented the Rutland Avenue address.
Eight families were evacuated from near the Rutland Avenue address and a cordon put in place.
Officers carried out a controlled explosion as a precautionary measure at Sefton Park, but there is not believed to be any wider risk to the public as the investigation continues.
Is the blast terror related?
The explosion was declared a terror incident by police on Monday morning, a day after the blast.
The UK terror threat level has since been raised from substantial to severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely” rather than “likely”.
Officers from Counter Terrorism North West are leading the investigation, supported by Merseyside Police and the security service, MI5.
Detectives are unsure what the motivation behind the attack was, the reason for the device’s “sudden explosion” or why Al Swealmeen asked to be taken to the hospital.
Police said it could take “many weeks” before they fully understand what happened in terms of planning, preparation and how things unfolded.
Prime minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday afternoon in light of the events.
Nick Aldworth, a former counter terror co-ordinator, said: “From what I’ve seen there is very little blast damage, there is a lot of fire damage, but very little blast damage.
“So whatever was in there is probably a low yield or didn’t work properly or possibly an incendiary.”
What happened to the taxi driver and how did he escape?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Mr Perry for acting with “incredible presence of mind and bravery”, while mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson lauded the driver for his “heroic efforts”.
His wife, Rachel Perry, said her husband’s escape from serious injury was an “utter miracle” and appeared to debunk the claims that he locked the passenger in the car.
She said: “There are a lot of rumours flying round about him being a hero and locking the passenger inside the car.
“The truth of the matter is, he is without doubt, lucky to be alive.”
Additional reporting by PA
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies