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Liverpool terror suspect had completed Alpha course and been confirmed at Cathedral

by Donna Birrell

The man who is believed to have detonated a homemade bomb inside a taxi in Liverpool killing himself and injuring the driver, was a Christian convert who had reportedly had an asylum claim rejected in 2014.

Reports suggest 32 year old Emad Al Swealmeen moved to the UK from the Middle East several years ago and converted to Christianity from Islam in 2017. He had been looked after for several months by a Christian couple who volunteered at Liverpool Cathedral where he attended an Alpha course. 

The device was detonated outside Liverpool Women's Hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday.

This morning, the police said it could take "many weeks" before they fully understand what happened in terms of planning, preparation and how things unfolded.

Lt.Col Malcolm Hitchcott, who with his wife Elizabeth had taken Al Swealmeen to live with them, said the suspect had first come to Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral in 2015 and wanted to convert from Islam to Christianity.

Speaking to the Times Lt Col Hitchott recalled how he was helping at Bible classes for asylum seekers when Al Swealmeen arrived at the cathedral in August 2015. He said Al Swealmeen took an Alpha course to teach him about Christianity and that there had never been anything amiss during the eight months he had lived with them. 

Associates claim they believed Al Swealmeen was only interested in converting to Christianity because he believed it would assist his asylum claim. He had made a new application in 2017.

Al Swealmeen, who called himself Enzo Almeni, suffered mental health problems and was sectioned seven years ago after trying to kill himself by jumping off an overpass, while waving a knife, in central Liverpool. He adopted the first name of the founder of Ferrari because of his love of motor racing.

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Hitchcott said: "We're just so, so sad. We just loved him, he was a lovely guy."

Questioned if the couple were shocked by the incident, she added: "Very."

Al Swealmeen had moved to a rented flat in Sefton Park, a short walk from the Hitchcotts' home, where he lived with a group of men.

The driver of the taxi, named locally as David Perry, survived Sunday's incident and has since been discharged from hospital.

Four men arrested under terrorism laws in the Kensington area of Liverpool - three aged 21, 26 and 29, who were held on Sunday, and a man aged 20 who was detained on Monday - have now been released from police custody following interviews.

The UK terror threat level has been raised from substantial to severe following the incident, meaning an attack is "highly likely" rather than "likely".

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Meeks said: "We continue to appeal for any information about this incident and, now that we have released his name, any information that the public may have about Al Swealmeen, no matter how small, may be of great assistance to us."

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