Following yesterday’s shock events in central London, police have confirmed that two people were stabbed to death and a further three injured. The two people killed have been confirmed to be a man and a woman, and the three injured as two woman and one man. The names and nationalities of the victims have not been formally released to the public.
The attacker who was tackled by brave members of the public and shot dead at the scene by firearm officers, was formally identified last night as Usman Khan from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in the West Midlands. Following this breakthrough, Staffordshire Police have urged the public to remain vigilant following the news that yesterday’s terrorist attacker was a local. The investigation has now travelled north of London, where police are now carrying out searches at properties in Staffordshire. A property on Wolverhampton Road in Stafford close to Stafford town centre, where Khan is believed to have been living has been cordoned off and is currently the site of a significant amount of police activity.
The Times has reported that the attacker was invited to attend yesterday’s prison rehabilitation conference at the upmarket events venue, Fishmongers’ Hall. Khan apparently sat through a morning session at the conference. The venue was hosting the fifth anniversary of Learning Together, an initiative launched by two Cambridge University academics that aims to bring together professionals from the criminal justice sector and higher education.
Information about Khan’s criminal background has since emerged.
According to the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the 28-year old was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court in February 2012 for terrorism offences. However, Khan released from prison in December 2018 on licence. Being released ‘on licence’ means that for the rest of their sentence the released prisoner must stick to certain conditions. Time spent ‘on licence’ is supervised by probation. Before release from prison, the prisoner will be given the licence and have the conditions explained.
Usman Khan was part of the 2010 Stock Exchange plot which was was inspired by Al-Qaida. Khan, alongside eight other men from other parts of the UK had planned to bomb the London Stock Exchange, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Other potential targets names had been scribbled on to a piece of paper, these included that of then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Fortunately, the plot was disrupted by MI5 and the police. The group of nine men pleaded guilty to the offence, Khan being the youngest of the group at just 19 years old. Khan is also understood to have been a supporter of Al-Muhijaroun. According to the anti-extremism group Hate Not Hate, this is an extremist group which large numbers of terrorists were involved with.
Additionally, Khan had once planned to establish and train at a “terrorist military training facility”, on land owned by his family in Kashmir, according to sentencing remarks from his 2012 conviction. This was seconded by a July 2013 report by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism, which wrote that Khan was one of one of three men from Stoke who had travelled to Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, and planned to construct a terrorist training camp in Kashmir. Mr Justice Wilkie also expressed that Khan and his co-accused Nazam Hussain and Mohammed Shahjahan were planning to fund and establish the terrorist training school, with Khan and Hussain planning to leave the UK in January 2011 to train.
Khan and his accomplices had intended to fundraise for the construction and management of the terrorist training school by fraud. Essentially, Khan had attempted to recruit young British Muslims to go to the terrorist training school and train, thereafter being available to commit terrorism both abroad and at home.
During the London Stock Exchange plot trial, Mr Justice Wilkie had stated that Khan and two other culprits were “more serious jihadis“ than the others. The judge termed their plans a “serious, long term venture in terrorism”, and warned that Khan may pose an ongoing safety risk to the public. The Judge believed that the risk Khan posed was, “so significant that it can only be adequately met by an Instrument for Public Protection.” That would allow Khan to be remanded indefinitely so long as he was considered to pose a risk to the public. However, the Instrument for Public Protection sentencing model was abolished in 2012.
Mr Justice Wilkie stated that Khan should not be released before he had served a minimum of eight years of his sixteen year sentence. Khan had received a 20% discount on his sentence for pleading guilty, but was subject to a terrorism notification period of 30 years.
In December 2018 after serving six years behind bars, Khan was released from prison on licence (parole) and became subject to wearing an electronic tag.
The Prime Minister expressed concerns with the parole system in his second press statement on Friday evening. Johnson told reporters that he had “long argued” that it was a “mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early”. Furthermore, Johnson explained that, “it is important that we get out of that habit, and enforce appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals.”
It has also come to public attention that Khan and his London Stock Exchange plot accomplices had copies of the Al-Qaida English-language extremist magazine, ‘Inspire’, and had considered putting letter bombs in the post.
Eyewitnesses have since told interviewers that Khan shouted, “let of of me”, when police and the members of the public challenged him after he was pursued on to London Bridge.
Security Minister Brandon Lewis stated on BBC Breakfast this morning, that police have said they are not at this moment looking for any other suspects, and expressed that all of us should be going about our lives today as we would on any other day.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, also stated on the programme that there appears to be no further threat from this man or operation, but all of us have a duty to remain vigilant.
The Queen has expressed her “deepest sympathies” to all those affected by the incident.
There will be an increased police presence and firearm officer presence in London over the next few days. Eyewitnesses have been encouraged to share their experience with the police, and anyone with further information on Khan or the incident has been asked to come forward.