London’s Metropolitan police arrested a man on Thursday after he drove a car into the security gates protecting Downing Street, where UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt have their official residences.
The incident took place at about 4.20pm. Police said there were no injuries. “Armed police arrested a man at the scene on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving,” the Met said.
Asked if the incident was being treated as potentially terrorist related, the Met said: “Enquiries are ongoing.” Sunak was in his office in Downing Street at the time.
Pictures taken at the scene showed a middle-aged white man in handcuffs being led away by officers.
Whitehall, the main road that runs past Downing Street from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, was cordoned off. People flocked to the barricades, behind which there was a heavy police presence, including officers with sniffer dogs.
Footage of the car, a silver Kia, moments before showed it on the far side of Whitehall from Downing Street outside the Ministry of Defence heading towards Parliament Square. It then pulled out and headed across the road at low speed and then slowed down again as it approached Downing Street before coming to a halt in front of the tall, wrought iron gates.
A witness told the BBC that he saw police with Taser guns pointed at a man who was being held face down on the pavement. He was subsequently arrested and marched away from the scene by police officers.
Within an hour of the incident taking place, police had lifted the security cordon and traffic again flowed freely past Downing Street.
There was no early indication that Thursday’s collision was terrorist-related. After the initial flurry of security activity, pedestrians were allowed to walk freely on the other side of Whitehall, which security sources said was a good indication of a lack of any wider threat.
The most recent terrorist-related incident at the seat of the UK government was in 2017 when Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old Briton, drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster bridge before fatally stabbing a policeman outside parliament.