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British Police Conduct Searches, Death Toll Rises After London Attack

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Three days after an attack in central London that killed five people, including the attacker and injured dozens, British police are still trying to figure out what might have motivated Khalid Masood and whether he had accomplices. Authorities say that the 52-year-old British-born convert to Islam may have radicalized during a prison stay. Meanwhile, Londoners carry on with their famous pluck led by their Muslim mayor. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Right after Wednesday's attack, Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke at a vigil held in London's Trafalgar Square.

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SADIQ KHAN: We come together to send a clear message. Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.

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BEARDSLEY: Elected last May, Khan is the first Muslim mayor of a major European city. London has dealt with radical Islamist terrorism before but not with a Muslim mayor at the helm. Egyptian-born Brit, Isham Madkur says having Khan as mayor will remind some people not to confuse Muslims with depraved individuals. And he says Khan will help keep the city united.

ISHAM MADKUR: I'm proud from what he's doing now. OK. He's a Muslim and the majority of people here is not Muslim, but the people here give him their votes, and said, yes, Sadiq we need you to look after the city, look after our families.

BEARDSLEY: Mayor Khan and his police force are questioning hundreds of witnesses and examining masses of computer data seized in house raids this week. Seven people have been released but two are still in custody. They were arrested in Birmingham where Masood recently lived. Masood was born Adrian Russell Elms. Authorities are not sure at what point he converted and changed his name.

Back in the streets of London, Andy Stavrino is driving his black cab. He says Mayor Khan is much better than his predecessor, Boris Johnson, who ruined the city. Stavrino says he didn't think about the fact that Khan is Muslim until I asked him.

ANDY STAVRINO: He may be Muslim but he's a Londoner, you know? If he does a good job in London with the traffic and whatever, then it doesn't really bother me what he is really (laughter).

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BEARDSLEY: Big Ben chimes above the Westminster Bridge where Masood plowed his SUV into pedestrians. The bridge has reopened and people are laying flowers. Lisa Dittmer says most Londoners love their city for its diversity.

LISA DITTMER: I think it's a great thing we have a mayor who's a Muslim and, you know, it's not a big thing. He just is.

BEARDSLEY: Dittmer says Sadiq Khan is doing a great job leading Londoners through this crisis.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.