U.K. Police Identify Suspected Liverpool Taxi Bomber as Asylum-Seeker From Middle East

A man who died Sunday when his homemade bomb exploded in a taxi outside a hospital in Liverpool, England, has been identified as an asylum-seeker from the Middle East, the Associated Press reported.

Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, was killed during the explosion after asking a taxi driver to drop him off outside Liverpool Women's Hospital. The driver, who reportedly locked him in the car before escaping, was injured in the blast.

Liverpool couple Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott said Al Swealmeen spent time in a psychiatric hospital several years ago and stayed with them for eight months after his release. They told British media that he was interested in Christianity and converted from Islam.

"We're just so, so sad. We just loved him. He was a lovely guy," Elizabeth Hitchcott told the BBC.

Bishop Cyril Ashton, a spokesman for Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, said Al Swealmeen was baptized in 2015 at the church and confirmed in 2017 but lost contact with the cathedral in 2018. Ashton conducted his confirmation.

Police called the blast a terrorist act and believe Al Swealmeen built the bomb. The motive, attack plan and any partners are undetermined.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Liverpool Bombing
A man who died Sunday when his homemade bomb exploded in a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital has been identified as an asylum-seeker from the Middle East who converted from Islam to Christianity. Above, forensic police officers walk outside Liverpool Women's Hospital after Sunday's explosion in Liverpool, England, on November 16, 2021. Peter Byrne/PA/Associated Press

Russ Jackson, the head of counterterrorism policing for northwest England, said police now have "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."

Security Minister Damian Hinds said police needed "time and space" to investigate.

Four men in their 20s who had been detained under the Terrorism Act as part of the investigation were released late Monday. Jackson 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."

"There's always the possibility that further links can be detected," Hinds told the BBC. "People sometimes talk about lone wolves and so on—people are rarely totally alone because they talk to others and so on."

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 in 2014 but was rejected. It's unclear what his legal status was at the time of the bombing.

"Like so many, I have been shocked and saddened by the bombing in Liverpool and the revelation that the bomber was part of the cathedral community for a while," Ashton said.

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.