Car hits pedestrians in suspected terrorist attack at UK parliament

Armed police officers stand at a cordon after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

By Kylie MacLellan and Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – A man deliberately drove a car into London pedestrians and cyclists on Tuesday before ramming it into barriers outside Britain’s parliament in what appeared to be the second terrorist attack at the building in just under 18 months, police said.

Three people were injured. The driver, a man in his 20s, was arrested by armed officers moments later. He was not cooperating with detectives, the British police counter-terrorism chief said.

“Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method, and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident,” the officer, London Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, told reporters.

In March 2017, Khalid Masood, 52, killed four people on nearby Westminster Bridge and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in the grounds of parliament before being shot dead.

It was the first of five attacks in Britain last year that police designated as terrorism, three of which used vehicles as weapons.

Basu said the suspect in Tuesday’s incident was in custody but not cooperating. He said the man had not been formally identified but was not believed to be known to security forces.

The BBC, citing unnamed sources, said the man was from the Birmingham area and known to police, although not to intelligence or counter-terrorism agencies.

Forensic investigators work at the site after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Forensic investigators work at the site after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

NO OTHER SUSPECTS

Basu said there were currently no other suspects from the scene of the incident and no indications of further danger.

Police said a silver Ford Fiesta had driven through a group of cyclists and pedestrians during the morning rush hour before hitting a barrier in front of the Houses of Parliament at 7:37 a.m. (0637 GMT).

Video footage showed the vehicle making an illegal turn before veering across the road and into a security lane leading to parliament before smashing into the protective barrier as two police officers jumped to safety.

The man was detained on suspicion of terrorist offenses and no weapons were found, Basu said.

Two people were taken to the hospital and one woman was still receiving treatment for serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Armed officers swarmed the scene and sealed off a large area around parliament that is usually bustling with tourists and government workers.

“I saw the cyclists, injured cyclists. I don’t know if he’s hit these people or if they’ve just dived to escape,” bystander Jason Williams told reporters. “It didn’t swerve, there was not another car going behind him. It looked like it was planned.”

Images shot by a Euronews journalist showed police pointing their guns at the vehicle shortly after the crash. Footage on social media showed a man being led away in handcuffs.

“TERRIBLE SCENES”

Prime Minister Theresa May, who like other lawmakers is on holiday during parliament’s summer recess, urged Britons to remain vigilant but to carry on as normal.

“For the second time in as many years the home of our democracy, which is a potent symbol of our precious values of tolerance and freedom, has just witnessed terrible scenes just yards from its door,” she said in a statement.

Britain is on its second-highest threat level, “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.

May’s spokesman said that, since Masood’s attack in Westminster last year, 13 Islamist and four far-right plots had been foiled. At the end of June, security services were carrying out 676 live investigations.

Last week, a Muslim convert admitted plotting to kill more than 100 people by driving a truck into pedestrians on London’s Oxford Street, the capital’s major shopping thoroughfare.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has previously spoken out about security issues in London, tweeted: “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength.”

Cordons around parliament began to be lifted about six hours after the incident and Westminster Underground station, close to parliament, was reopened. However, streets immediately surrounding the scene remained closed off.

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden, James Davey, Alistair Smout and Paul SandleWriting by William Schomberg; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

U.S. strongly condemns Russia’s poisoning of former spy: White House

By Jeff Mason

BERKLEY HEIGHTS, New Jersey (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday the United States strongly condemned Russia’s use of chemical weapons against a former Russian agent in Britain, two days after the U.S. State Department announced sanctions over the move.

“The attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2018, was a reckless display of contempt for the universally held norm against chemical weapons,” said a spokesman for the White House National Security Council in an email.

The spokesman said sanctions that the State Department said it would impose by the end of August fulfilled its legal obligations “after determining a foreign government has used chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals or in violation of international law.”

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door.

President Donald Trump, who is spending the week at his golf property in New Jersey, did not comment on the recent sanctions when asked about them by a reporter on Thursday. Trump has sought to improve relations with Russia despite U.S. intelligence findings that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

European countries and the United States have expelled 100 Russian diplomats since that attack, in the toughest action by Trump against Russia since he came to office.

Trump and his advisers have often appeared at odds over how strongly to act against Moscow. In the run-up to a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, U.S. officials repeatedly called out Russia over its “malign” activities, but Trump did not use such language during a news conference with Putin.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Russia reels, denounces new U.S. sanctions as illegal, unfriendly

FILE PHOTO: National flags of Russia and the U.S. fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia condemned a new round of U.S. sanctions as illegal on Thursday after news of the measures sent the rouble tumbling to two-year lows and sparked a wider asset sell-off over fears that Moscow was locked in a spiral of never-ending curbs by the West.

Moscow has been trying with mixed success to improve battered U.S.-Russia ties since Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and Russia’s political elite was quick to chalk up a summit last month between Trump and Vladimir Putin as a victory.

But initial triumphalism swiftly turned sour as anger over what some U.S. lawmakers saw as an over deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow’s alleged meddling in U.S. politics galvanized a new sanctions push.

Having bet heavily on improving ties with Washington via Trump, Moscow now finds that Trump is under mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers to show he is tough on Russia ahead of mid-term elections.

In the latest broadside, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions by the month’s end after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain, something Moscow denies.

In an early reaction, the Kremlin said the sanctions were illegal and unfriendly and that the U.S. move was at odds with the “constructive atmosphere” of Trump and Putin’s encounter in Helsinki.

The new sanctions come in two tranches. The first, which targets U.S. exports of sensitive national-security related goods, comes with deep exemptions and many of the items it covers have already been banned by previous restrictions.

However, the second tranche, activated after 90 days if Moscow fails to provide “reliable assurances” it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups, is more serious.

NBC, citing U.S. officials, said the second tranche could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending the state airline Aeroflot’s ability to fly to the United States and cutting off nearly all exports and imports.

The State Department’s announcement fueled already worsening investor sentiment about the possible impact of more sanctions on Russian assets and the rouble at one point slid by over 1 percent against the dollar, hitting a two-year low, before recouping some of its losses.

The U.S. move also triggered a sell-off in Russian government bonds and the dollar-denominated RTS index fell to its lowest since April 11.

“There is local panic on the currency market,” BCS Brokerage said in a note. “At times, the number of those who want to ditch the rouble is becoming so high so there is not enough liquidity.”

ILLEGAL

The Kremlin said the new sanctions were “illegal and do not correspond to international law.”

“…Such decisions taken by the American side are absolutely unfriendly and can hardly be somehow associated with the constructive – not simple but constructive – atmosphere that there was at the last meeting of the two presidents,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Washington had become an unpredictable player on the international stage, Peskov added, saying “anything could be expected” from it and that it was important that Russia’s financial system, which he described as stable, was prepared.

In a sign the Kremlin was not eager to escalate an already difficult situation however, Peskov said it was too early to talk about Russian countermeasures.

He criticized the U.S. decision to link the sanctions to the British nerve agent case, an incident the Kremlin has long cast as a Western plot to damage its reputation and provide a pretext for more sanctions.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door.

European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by Trump against Russia since he came to office.

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the upper house of parliament’s international affairs committee, was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying it looked like Washington was now behaving like “a police state.”

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said the State Department’s move looked like the latest salvo in what he called a hybrid war.

“Sanctions are the U.S. weapon of choice,” Trenin wrote on Twitter.

“They are not an instrument, but the policy itself. Russia will have to brace for more to come over the next several years, prepare for the worst and push back where it can.”

At variance with Moscow over Ukraine and Syria, Western sanctions have already drastically reduced Western involvement in Russian energy and commodities projects, including large-scale financing and exploration of hard-to-recover and deep water resources.

Proposed U.S. legislation prepared by several senators calls on Trump to widen the sanctions further to include virtually all Russian energy projects and effectively bar Western companies from any involvement in the country.

Introduced by Republican and Democratic senators last week in draft form, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the measure’s lead sponsors, has called it “the sanctions bill from hell.”

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, Tom Balmforth, Denis Pinchuk, Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Chemical weapons inspectors to collect new samples in UK nerve agent poisoning

A forensic investigator, wearing a protective suit, emerges from the rear of John Baker House, after it was confirmed that two people had been poisoned with the nerve-agent Novichok, in Amesbury, Britain, July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Inspectors of the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will return to Britain on request of the government to take new samples of the nerve agent which killed one person and injured another in Amesbury, England, in June.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Tuesday said it would deploy a team to collect additional samples, to be analyzed in two laboratories designated by the agency.

In July the British government asked the OPCW to independently identify a substance which the authorities had found to be Novichok — the same nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.

Britain blamed Russia for the Skripal poisoning but the Kremlin denied involvement.

In June, two Britons fell ill in Amesbury after being exposed to the poison in southwest England, close to where the Skripals were attacked. One of them died.

Britain is ready to ask Russia to extradite two men it suspects of carrying out a nerve agent attack on Skripal, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday, citing government and security sources.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Britain would not block death penalty for IS suspects: Daily Telegraph

FILE PHOTO: A combination picture shows Alexanda Kotey and Shafee Elsheikh, who the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claim are British nationals, in these undated handout pictures in Amouda, Syria released February 9, 2018. Syrian Democratic Forces/Handout via REUTERS

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s interior minister has indicated London would not object to Washington seeking the death penalty against two British Islamic State militants if they are extradited to the United States, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.

According to a leaked letter published in the newspaper from British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Britain was prepared to waive its long-standing objection to executions in the case of captured fighters, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.

The two men are suspected of being two of four militants, dubbed the “Beatles” because of their English accents, who took part in the kidnap, torture and murder of Western hostages.

They were captured in Syria in January by a U.S.-backed Syrian force, and Britain and the United States have been in discussions about how and where they should face justice.

According to the Telegraph, Javid wrote to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying Britain was not intending to request that the two men be sent to the United Kingdom, saying a successful prosecution in the United States was more likely.

Furthermore, he said Britain would not insist on guarantees the men would not be executed.

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” the letter said.

“As you are aware, it is the long held position of the UK to seek death penalty assurances, and our decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally, nor the UK Government’s stance on the global abolition of the death penalty.”

A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents and Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said Britain wanted the militants to be tried in the most appropriate jurisdiction.

“It’s a long-standing position of the government to oppose the death penalty … as a matter of principle,” the spokeswoman told reporters. “We are continuing to engage with the U.S. government on this issue and our priority is to make sure that these men face criminal prosecution.”

GUANTANAMO

The opposition Labour Party accused Javid of “secretly and unilaterally” abandoning Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.

“By doing so he is not just playing with the lives of these particular terrorists but those of other Britons – including potentially innocent ones – all over the world,” said Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti.

The Telegraph also reported that other documents suggested that Britain would not oppose the men being sent to the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay military facility.

However, the Home Office spokesman appeared to reject this saying: “The UK government’s position on Guantanamo Bay is that the detention facility should close.”

The most notorious of the four so called “Beatles” was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John”, who is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.

He became the public face of Islamic State and appeared in videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.

The mother of James Foley said she did not want the men to be executed if found guilty.

“I think that would just make them martyrs in their twisted ideology. I would like them held accountable by being sent to prison for the rest of their lives,” Diane Foley told BBC radio.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Heavens)

Britain’s May bows to Brexit pressure in parliament

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, arrives at Downing Street, in central London, Britain July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By William James and Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May bowed to pressure from Brexit supporters in her governing Conservative Party on Monday, accepting their changes to a customs bill that underpins Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May, vulnerable in parliament after losing her party’s majority at an ill-judged election last year, has come under fire from both wings of her party over a hard-won Brexit plan, with one ex-minister calling it the “worst of all worlds”.

Eurosceptic lawmakers had targeted her government’s customs legislation to try to toughen up her plans to leave the EU, but instead of facing them down and fuelling tensions, her spokesman said the government would accept their four amendments.

It was not clear the move would fundamentally change her plans – the changes do little more than to put government policy into law, her spokesman said – but it was a victory of sorts for those lawmakers who say May has betrayed them on Brexit, the biggest shift in British trade and foreign policy for decades.

“We will be accepting those four amendments,” the spokesman told reporters, saying the government believed they were “consistent” with the white paper policy document ministers agreed earlier this month.

“We have accepted these amendments because we believe them to be consistent with the approach that was set out and agreed at Chequers,” he said.

May had to fight hard to get the agreement of cabinet ministers at her Chequers country residence for her vision for Britain’s future ties with the EU, only for it to be undermined by the resignations last week of her Brexit minister David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

The plan, only a starting point for the second phase of talks with the EU, has come under fire from other eurosceptic lawmakers, who say the proposal to keep close customs ties to the EU betrays her commitment for a clean break with the bloc.

The battle over the amendments to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, or customs bill, is unlikely to be the last that May and her team will have to face.

“WORST OF BOTH WORLDS”

On Monday, the other wing of May’s Conservative Party – those lawmakers who want to keep the closest possible ties with the EU after Brexit – spoke up in the voice of former education minister Justine Greening who called for a second referendum.

Greening said such a vote was the only way to break the stalemate in parliament over the best future relationship with the bloc and branded May’s plan as “a fudge I can’t support. It’s the worst of both worlds”.

May’s spokesman said there would be no second referendum under any circumstances, and restated her position that the Chequers plan was the only way to deliver a Brexit that worked in the best interests of the country.

Another pro-EU lawmaker Dominic Grieve, who has led previous efforts to get the government to soften its Brexit stance, said the party needed to accept compromises “or accept that Brexit cannot be implemented and think again about what we are doing”.

For now the impetus lies with the Brexit supporters.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, an arch eurosceptic who proposed the amendments, said he did not expect the bill, or another bill on trade due to be debated on Tuesday, to be blocked outright by the 650-member parliament. Rees-Mogg said that he wanted rather to test the support in parliament for changing her strategy.

“I’m sure Theresa May does not want to split the Conservative Party and therefore she will find that the inevitable consequence of the parliamentary arithmetic is that she will need to change it (the Brexit policy) to keep the party united,” Rees-Mogg said.

(Reporting by William James, additional reporting by Michael Holden and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by David Stamp and Gareth Jones)

UK PM May doing ‘fantastic’ job on Brexit, says Trump, promising trade deal

British Prime Minster Theresa May and her husband Philip stand together with U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the entrance to Blenheim Palace, where they are attending a dinner with specially invited guests and business leaders, near Oxford, Britain, July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

By Jeff Mason and William James

CHEQUERS, England (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he looked forward to finalizing a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, marking an abrupt change from a newspaper interview when he said Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy would kill such an agreement.

In an interview published just hours before the two leaders held talks, Trump chided the “very unfortunate” results of the prime minister’s proposals for Brexit and her negotiating tactics as Britain prepares to leaves the European Union in March next year.

However, Trump later said May was doing a “fantastic job”.

“Once the Brexit process is concluded and perhaps the UK has left the EU, I don’t know what they’re going to do but whatever you do is OK with me, that’s your decision,” Trump told a press conference with May in the garden of her official country residence Chequers.

“Whatever you do is OK with us, just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries and we will seize it fully.”

Last week at the same location, May finally won agreement for her Brexit plans from her cabinet but within days two senior ministers had quit, departures which Trump said earlier in the week had left Britain in turmoil.

Hours after those proposals were formally published, Trump cast further doubt on the strategy, delivering a withering verdict in an interview with the Sun newspaper.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump said. “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

Asked about that interview, Trump said he did not criticize the prime minister and was gushing in his praise of his host, saying she was tough and capable.

“This incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job, a great job,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was generally fine but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister and I said a tremendous thing. It’s called fake news.”

“HIGHEST LEVEL OF SPECIAL”

May, likewise, glossed over the comments.

“We agreed today that as the UK leaves the European Union we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-UK free trade agreement,” she said. “The Chequers agreement reached last week provides the platform for Donald and me to pursue an ambitious deal that works for both countries right across our economies.”

May and Trump both spoke of the importance of the “special relationship” between their two countries, something that Brexit supporters hope will reap benefits when Britain leaves the EU, allowing it to forge closer trade ties with the world’s biggest economy.

“I would say I would give our relationship in terms of grade the highest level of special,” Trump said.

However, many have cast May’s “business-friendly” plan as a betrayal that would leave Britain too close to the EU, including lawmakers in her deeply divided Conservative Party who have warned that she might face a leadership challenge.

During the press conference, May also thanked Trump for his support over Russia which Britain has blamed for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in southwest England in March.

Trump is due to meet Putin, who has rejected the nerve agent claims, at a summit when he finishes his four-day visit to Britain, and said he would raise the issue of reducing nuclear weapons.

“It will certainly be something that we bring up and talk about,” the U.S. president said.

As Trump and May spoke, thousands of protesters marched against the president through central London, one of more than 100 demonstrations planned against the president during his stay.

While Trump’s trip was not a full state visit, he has been given red carpet treatment and is scheduled to have tea later with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, where her grandson Prince Harry married U.S. actress Meghan Markle in May.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, editing by Larry King, Kevin Liffey and David Stamp)

UK police speak to man poisoned with Novichok nerve agent

FILE PHOTO: Forensic investigators, wearing protective suits, emerge from the rear of John Baker House, after it was confirmed that two people had been poisoned with the nerve-agent Novichok, in Amesbury, Britain, July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Police said on Wednesday they had spoken to the man poisoned with a nerve agent as detectives sought to discover how he and his partner, who died on Sunday, were exposed to Novichok.

Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill after being exposed to the poison in southwest England, close to where Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with the same substance in March.

Sturgess, a mother of three, died on Sunday and her death is being treated as murder. However, the hospital treating Rowley said he was no longer in a critical condition and was now conscious.

“Officers from the investigation team have spoken briefly to Charlie and will be looking to further speak with him in the coming days as they continue to try and establish how he and Dawn came to be contaminated with the nerve agent,” London police said in a statement.

“Any contact officers have with Charlie will be done in close consultation with the hospital and his doctors.”

Britain and its allies have blamed Russia for the attack on the Skripals, prompting the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War. Moscow has rejected the accusations and has hit back by expelling Western diplomats.

The Skripals, who have both been discharged from hospital after spending weeks in hospital, fell ill after the poison was applied to the ex-spy’s front door in the city of Salisbury. Sturgess and Rowley were found at a house in Amesbury, 11 km (7 miles) away.

Neil Basu, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer said it might never be possible to definitively establish a link between the death of Sturgess and the poisoning of the Skripals.

He also said police could not guarantee there were no more traces of Novichok, developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War, still in England.

“I would love to be able to stand here and say how we have identified and caught those responsible and how we are absolutely certain there are no traces of nerve agent left anywhere in the county,” Basu said.

“The brutal reality, however, is that I cannot offer you any such assurances or guarantees at this time.”

Basu has previously said that due to the high dose that Sturgess and Rowley received, the hypothesis was they must have handled a contaminated container.

(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

British man poisoned with Novichok regains consciousness: hospital

FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands in front of screening erected behind John Baker House, after it was confirmed that two people had been poisoned with the nerve-agent Novichok, in Amesbury, Britain, July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – A British man poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent 10 days ago has regained consciousness and he is now in a critical but stable condition, Salisbury District Hospital said on Tuesday.

Charlie Rowley was poisoned along with Dawn Sturgess, who died on Sunday, by the same nerve agent used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March.

“We have seen a small but significant improvement in the condition of Charlie Rowley,” said Lorna Wilkinson, Director of Nursing at Salisbury District Hospital.

“He is in a critical but stable condition, and is now conscious.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle)

Americans in UK warned to keep ‘low profile’ during Trump visit

Temporary signs indicate road closures around the U.S. ambassador's residence, where special fences have been erected prior to the U.S. presidential visit at the end of the week, in Regent's Park in London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S. Embassy in London issued an alert on Tuesday to Americans in the British capital, warning them to keep a low profile during President Donald Trump’s visit later this week in case protests against him turn violent.

Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday after a NATO summit and thousands of protesters are expected to join demonstrations during his visit, including plans to fly a blimp over parliament portraying Trump as an orange, snarling baby.

While Britain regards the United States as its closest ally, some Britons see Trump as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on a range of issues. His comments on militant attacks in Britain and his re-tweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader of a far-right UK party sparked anger.

More than 50,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London on Friday against his visit although a counter-gathering to welcome him is also planned.

“Numerous demonstrations are being planned for July 12 to 14, 2018, surrounding the visit of the President of the United States to the United Kingdom,” the U.S. embassy said in the alert on its website.

“Several of the events are expected to attract large crowds and there will be road closures in connection with those events.”

Its advice to U.S. citizens was to “keep a low profile” and “exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings that may become violent”.

Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday after the NATO summit in Belgium and will stay overnight at the central London residence of the U.S. ambassador where a high metal security fence was erected outside.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May at her 16th-century manor house, meet Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle and attend a black-tie dinner at the home of former World War Two leader Winston Churchill – all outside London.

The U.S. president is also due to travel to Scotland where he owns two golf courses and Scotland’s interim police chief has said more than 5,000 officers would be needed for to cover the trip, including specialist riot and armed officers.

Ahead of his visit, Trump said Britain was currently “in somewhat turmoil” as Prime Minister May grappled with a political crisis after two top ministers quit over her plans for trade ties with the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc next March.

“I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have (Vladimir Putin),” Trump said as he set off on his trip to Europe which includes a meeting with the Russian President in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?”

Relations between Britain and Russia are at a post-Cold War low since May blamed the Kremlin for the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal with a Soviet-era military nerve agent in March.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)