EXETER, England – A bombing suspect arrested after a blast in the southwest English city of Exeter on Thursday is a vulnerable Islamic convert with mental illness who was taken advantage of and radicalized, police said.
Police evacuated a large part of Exeter city center after a small explosion at the Giraffe restaurant around lunchtime.
Police identified the suspect as Nicky Reilly, 22. He suffered serious facial injuries in the blast and was receiving treatment in a hospital under police guard.
"Our investigation so far indicates that Reilly, who has a history of mental illness, has adopted the Islamic faith," Deputy Chief Constable Tony Melville told reporters. "We believe ... he was preyed upon, radicalized, and taken advantage of."
It is extremely rare for British authorities to identify suspects by name before they are charged. Police explained that they needed more information on Reilly's movements before the blast.
"I am taking the unusual step of releasing his photograph because we want anyone who saw him today or can help us track his movements over recent weeks to contact us," Melville said.
Police have also given some details of Reilly's travels before the blast, saying he traveled by bus from the nearby city of Plymouth to Exeter earlier in the day.
Melville gave no details as to who he thought had radicalized Reilly.
Police said they were investigating and it did not appear to be part of a bigger plot. Officers searched a property in Plymouth in connection with the investigation, police said.