British police released four men who were arrested under terrorism laws while detectives investigate a homemade bomb explosion in a Liverpool taxi and work to understand the motives of the suspected bomber, who died in the blast.
Police have named the bomber as 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen, who came to Britain as an asylum-seeker from the Middle East and later converted to Christianity.
Al Swealmeen was killed and a taxi driver injured when a blast ripped through the vehicle as it pulled up outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning.
Police have called the blast a terrorist act and believe the dead man built the bomb, but they are still working to determine the motive.
Four men in their 20s who had been detained under the Terrorism Act were released late Monday. Russ Jackson, the head of counterterrorism policing for northwest England, said that “following interviews with the arrested men, we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided and they have been released from police custody.”
Jackson said that police now had “a much greater understanding of the component parts of the device, how they were obtained and how the parts are likely to have been assembled.” But he said “there is a considerable way to go to understand how this incident was planned, prepared for and how it happened.”
The Times of London said Al Swealmeen — who also used the name Enzo Almeni — claimed to be of Syrian and Iraqi background and had applied for asylum in Britain, but was rejected.
Liverpool couple Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott told British media that Al Swealmeen had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and stayed with them for eight months after his release. The couple said Al Swealmeen was interested in Christianity and converted to the faith in 2017.
“We’re just so, so sad,” Elizabeth HItchcott told the BBC. “We just loved him. He was a lovely guy.”
The taxi driver, David Perry, escaped from the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames. He was treated in a hospital and released.
Britain’s official threat level was raised from substantial to severe — meaning an attack is highly likely — following the blast, the U.K.’s second fatal incident in a month. Conservative lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death in October in what police said was an act of terrorism.