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London knife attack suspect was ex-terror convict: police

This undated file handout photo obtained from West Midlands Police on February 1, 2012 shows Islamist Usman Khan.

This undated file handout photo obtained from West Midlands Police on February 1, 2012 shows Islamist Usman Khan.   | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

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Usman Khan was convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences

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

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faces a snap election on December 12, said it was a terrorist attack and vowed to end a practice whereby serious offenders can be automatically let out of prison early, as the Opposition attacked the policy.

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

The scene on London Bridge in the aftermath of a reported shooting, in London on November 29, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video.

The scene on London Bridge in the aftermath of a reported shooting, in London on November 29, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

“This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences,” Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, said in a statement. “Clearly, a key line of inquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

Two people — a man and a woman — were killed in the attack, which took place days before London is due to host NATO leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump. A man and two women were injured and remain in hospital, Mr. Basu said. The police searched an address in Stafford, central England, as they continued their investigation.

The Opposition Labour Party criticised the government's record on crime. “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.”

‘Changes needed’

Mr. Johnson said sentencing rules needed to be toughened up. “I have long said that this system simply isn’t working,” he said after visiting the scene of the attack.

“It does not make sense for us, as a society, to be putting people convicted of terrorist offences, serious violent offences, out on early release.”

The Conservatives defended an independent decision taken a few weeks ago to lower Britain’s terrorism threat level.

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This article has been corrected for a factual error.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:20:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/islamist-terrorist-who-spent-late-teens-in-pakistan-identified-as-london-bridge-attack-suspect/article30122016.ece

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