Car blast outside women's hospital declared terrorist incident as U.K. praises 'hero' cab driver

LONDON – A fatal car explosion outside a busy women’s hospital in the north-west city of Liverpool over the weekend was declared a terrorist incident by police on Monday.

“Although the motivation for this incident is not clear under any circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident under all circumstances and the counterterrorism police are still investigating,” said Russ Jackson, head of the Northwest Counter-Terrorism Police England, during a news conference.

A male passenger in the car was pronounced dead on Sunday at the scene of the crime, while the male driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries and has now been released from the hospital, police said. Neither man was identified by the police.

Three men, aged 21, 26 and 29, were arrested in connection with the incident On Sunday. A fourth man, aged 20, was arrested on Monday, police said.

Police and forensic scientists work on the site of a car explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Monday morning.Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Jackson said investigators believe an improvised explosive device was used in the explosion.

“Our previous assumption is that this was built by the passenger in the taxi,” he said. “The reason he then took it to the women’s clinic is unknown, as is the reason for the sudden explosion.”

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, praised the taxi driver’s actions as “heroic” early Monday.

Anderson said the BBC that the driver got out of the car and locked the doors before the explosion hit on Sunday.

“The taxi driver did it in his heroic efforts to avert an absolutely terrible disaster in the hospital,” said Anderson of the incident.

Investigators have not commented on Anderson’s account.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also praised the driver of the vehicle.

“It looks like the taxi driver in question acted with incredible presence of mind and bravery,” Johnson told journalists, adding that the details of what exactly happened are still being worked out.

Police were called in outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital just before 11 a.m. local time (6 p.m. ET) for reports of a car explosion, as well as Memorial service, to commemorate Britain’s war dead, took place at nearby Liverpool Cathedral.

The affected car was a taxi that stopped at the hospital shortly before the explosion, the police said.

Jackson said it appears that the taxi driver was asked by the passenger to take him to the women’s hospital and as the taxi neared the drop off point, an explosion rocked the car and quickly went up in flames, but the driver escaped.

Photos from the crime scene showed a vehicle in flames near the main entrance to the hospital.

Jackson said a search of a Liverpool address related to the incident had found “significant items” and further searches may be required.

The Liverpool Women’s Hospital said in a statement Late on Sunday evening, it restricted visiting access until further notice, but patients were no longer diverted to other hospitals.

The UK’s national terrorist threat level, a scale that indicates the likelihood of a terrorist attack anywhere in the UK, remains the same “essential”, which means that an attack is likely.

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