U.K. Police Probe Whether Car Explosion at Hospital Was Attack

An armed police officer holds a breaching shotgun, used to blast the hinges off a door, at an address in Rutland Avenue in Sefton Park, after an explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in Liverpool, England, Monday. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

British police and intelligence services were working Monday to determine whether a taxi explosion outside a Liverpool hospital was a deliberate attack, as the city’s mayor said the cab driver’s quick actions had averted a potential disaster.

The male occupant of a taxi was killed and its driver injured when the vehicle burst into flames outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning. Counterterrorism police officers are leading the investigation, but have not yet declared it a terrorist incident.

Three men in their 20s were arrested Sunday at an address in the northwest England city under the Terrorism Act and remain in custody.

Suspicions have been aroused by the timing of the explosion — just before 11 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday, the moment people across Britain hold services in memory of those killed in wars.

Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson said the taxi driver locked the doors of his cab so the passenger couldn’t leave.

“The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital,” she told the BBC.

The cabbie, whose name has not been released, is being treated in the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Britain’s interior minister, Home Secretary Priti Patel, said she was “being kept regularly updated on the awful incident.”

Nick Aldworth, a former senior terrorism investigator in Britain, said it was unclear whether the incident was terrorism. He said the taxi had sustained “a lot of fire damage with very little blast damage.”

He said that “whatever was in that vehicle was either a low yield or didn’t work properly, or possibly an incendiary. So I think it’s very much open to debate at the moment about what has happened.”

Britain’s official threat level from terrorism stands at “substantial,” the middle rung on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is likely. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre sets the threat level based on intelligence about international terrorism at home and overseas.