Police name London Bridge attacker, previously convicted of terrorism offences

Police name London Bridge attacker, previously convicted of terrorism offences

Police officers and emergency staff work at the site of an incident at London Bridge
Police officers and emergency staff work at the site of an incident at London Bridge in London, Britain, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON: The 28-year-old British man who killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge before police shot him dead had been released from prison after a previous conviction for terrorism offences, prompting recriminations ahead of an election.

Wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, Usman Khan went on the rampage on Friday afternoon at a conference on criminal rehabilitation beside London Bridge. He was wrestled to the ground by bystanders and then shot dead by police.

London bridge attacker Usman Khan
This undated file handout photo obtained from West Midlands Police on Feb 1, 2012 shows Usman Khan, then 20, who was jailed on Feb 9, 2012 with others after admitting to being involved with a group of fundamentalists who plotted a spate of mail bomb attacks during the run-up to Christmas in 2010.  (Photo: AFP/WEST MIDLANDS POLICE)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has called a snap election for Dec 12 and is due to host NATO leaders including US President Donald Trump next week, said it was a terrorist attack and said Britain would never be cowed.

Khan, whose family hails from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, was convicted in 2012 for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange but was released in December 2018 subject to conditions.

"This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences," said Britain's top counter-terrorism police officer Neil Basu in a statement.

"Clearly, a key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack," Basu said.

Two people - a man and a woman - were killed in the attack. In addition, a man and two women were injured and remain in hospital, Basu said.

Forensics officers are seen near the site of an incident at London Bridge in London
Forensics officers are seen near the site of an incident at London Bridge in London, Britain, Nov 29, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

Britain's opposition Labour Party, which trails the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, criticised the government's record on crime on Saturday as police continued their investigation.

"There are big questions that need to be answered," London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the most senior opposition politician in Britain in a position of power, told Sky News.

"One of the important tools judges had when it came to dealing with dangerous, convicted criminals ... was their ability to give an indeterminate sentence to protect the public," he said. "(That) was taken away from them by this government."

ELECTION ATTACK

During the 2017 election campaign, London Bridge was the scene of an attack when three militants drove a van into pedestrians and then attacked people in the surrounding area, killing eight and injuring at least 48.

Islamic State said its fighters were responsible, but the British authorities have cast doubt on those claims. The attack focused attention on cuts to policing since the governing Conservatives took power in 2010.

READ: 'Heroic' Londoners praised for tackling knifeman

Junior interior minister Brandon Lewis defended an independent decision taken a few weeks ago to lower Britain's terrorism threat level, but said sentencing rules needed to be reviewed.

"It is right that we do have to look again at the sentencing system around these kinds of violent crimes ... We will want to move very swiftly," he said.

Friday's attack, just 13 days before an election that could decide the fate of Britain's exit from the European Union, prompted political leaders to scale back campaigning.

The campaign so far has focused on Brexit and the health service but is likely to include crime over the coming days as Johnson, who praised the bravery of bystanders who tackled the attacker, seeks to limit the fallout from the incident.

"This country will never be cowed, or divided, or intimidated by this sort of attack," he told reporters in Downing Street late on Friday.

Source: Reuters/nc/nr

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