UK MPs to pay tribute to slain colleague in parliament

UK MPs to pay tribute to slain colleague in parliament

Tributes have been paid to David Amess, since he was stabbed to death on Friday
Tributes have been paid to David Amess, since he was stabbed to death on Friday

LONDON - British lawmakers will pay tribute in parliament on Monday to their murdered colleague David Amess, as counter-terrorism police probed whether a suspect arrested was motivated by Islamist extremism.

Veteran Conservative MP Amess, who was 69, was stabbed to death in a church hall on Friday as he met voters, in the second such attack on a UK lawmaker in five years, prompting fresh fears about the safety of politicians.

Several MPs spoke out about the dangers they faced, including Labour's Chris Bryant who said he notified police after receiving a death threat on Saturday.

Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab said he had at least three threats to "life and limb" in the past two years, including a warning he would have acid thrown at him.

Bryant attributed the rise in abuse to Brexit and anti-vaccine protests, while the widow of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was killed by a far-right extremist in 2016, said the "celebration of political segregation" needed to stop.

Last month, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner triggered a storm of protest after describing Conservatives as "scum".

"We have to stop dehumanising our opponents," Brendan Cox told Times Radio.

Lawmakers return to parliament after a three-week break and will hold prayers and a minute's silence in memory of Amess from 2:30 pm (1330 GMT).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead several hours of tributes, before Speaker Lindsay Hoyle heads a procession of lawmakers to a remembrance service.

Amess' family, who visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday, have said they were "absolutely broken" by his death and made a plea for tolerance.

"Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness," they said in a statement issued through police.

"Whatever one's race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand."

- Search for motive -

Police have until Friday to detain and question a 25-year-old man, who was arrested at the scene of the stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

Detectives have declared the killing a terrorist incident and said they were investigating "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism".

Counter-terror officers from London's Metropolitan police are leading the probe, with the force saying in its last update late Saturday that they were searching three addresses in the capital.

British media, citing unnamed official sources, have identified the suspect as Ali Harbi Ali, a British national of Somali descent.

On Sunday, officers stood guard outside a three-storey house in a quiet street in the north London district of Kentish Town, where his family is believed to live.

Before the attack, the suspect had been referred to Prevent, the official counter-terrorist scheme for those thought to be at risk of radicalisation, according to reports.

His father is a former prime ministerial adviser in Somalia, his uncle is the east African country's ambassador to China, while his aunt runs a security think tank in the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu, the reports added.

The Times said Monday that police were examining the close ties between Amess and Qatar, given the MP was chairman of a parliamentary group on the Gulf state and returned from his latest visit there earlier this month.

However, other newspapers reported Amess was not specifically targeted but picked randomly as part of a plot to kill any national politician after the suspect was allegedly self-radicalised at home during pandemic lockdowns.

- 'We will not be cowed' -

The killing has prompted fresh fears over MPs' security when they meet members of the public.

Interior minister Priti Patel has ordered a review of security measures for parliamentarians and vowed "to close any gaps" in security provision.

Police and parliamentary authorities were implementing "immediate changes and measures that are actively being put in place, and discussed with MPs," she said Sunday.

But Johnson's official spokesman told reporters on Monday: "The prime minister shares the concerns... that this attack cannot get in the way of democracy.

"We will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us and spread hate."

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