UK looking to stop 'malicious' use of rented vehicles after Spain attacks

A man walks across London Bridge behind a barrier to prevent traffic mounting the pavement in London, Britain, August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is exploring ways of stopping the “malicious” use of hired vehicles, including looking at what more rental companies can do, the transport ministry said on Sunday, after two attacks in Spain killed 14 people.

The attacks - one in Barcelona where a van was driven into crowds, killing 13 people, and another in Cambrils that saw five men drive a vehicle along a walkway, killing a woman - echoed tactics that have been used by Islamist militants in London.

The police say that the use of hired vehicles makes such attacks very hard to prevent.

“The threat from terrorism is changing and so must our response. That is why we are reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy and powers and why we have ploughed extra resources into counter-terrorism,” a government spokesperson said.

“The Department for Transport is also working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of hire vehicles. This includes looking at what more rental companies could do before an individual can hire a vehicle.”

Britain has increased the number of barriers at bridges and in certain locations in city centres to try to prevent such attacks. Since March, Britain has seen four attacks, three involving a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.

British hire firms make various checks before granting a vehicle rental, including verifying that customers have a full driving licence, additional identification and a valid credit card.

Similarly, Italy’s Interior Ministry over the weekend instructed its local officials to begin to track truck rentals. The ministry wants each heavy vehicle hire to be communicated to local police.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Bolton