Anger grows over security flaws in London terror attack after third man said to have been flagged by Italy

Police officers check the names of people, previously allowed into buildings within the police cordon on Borough High Street, in London, on June 6, 2017
Police officers check the names of people, previously allowed into buildings within the police cordon on Borough High Street, in London, on June 6, 2017 PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British authorities faced mounting anger on Tuesday (June 6) after police named the third attacker in the weekend terror assault in London, who Italy had previously flagged as a possible terrorist.

Police identified the third attacker as Youssef Zaghba, a 22-year-old Italian national of Moroccan descent, a day after naming his accomplices as Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a Pakistan-born Briton, and Rachid Redouane, 30, a self-described Moroccan-Libyan dual national.

Butt "was known to the police and MI5", the domestic security service, but there was no intelligence to suggest the attack was being planned, the Metropolitan Police said.

He had notably featured in a Channel 4 television documentary about extremists and, according to the British media, numerous people alarmed by his views had gone to the authorities.

Zaghba was "not a police or MI5 subject of interest," it added.

But an Italian prosecutor said Zaghba was flagged to Britain as a "possible suspect" back in March 2016.


A composite image of Khuram Shazad Butt (left), Rachid Redouane (centre) and Youssef Zaghba. PHOTO: LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE

 

Bologna prosecutor Giuseppe Amato said the warning had been transmitted after Zaghba was intercepted at the city's airport trying to board a plane for Turkey, en route for Syria.

Zaghba's Italian mother, Valeria Collina, said her son had been radicalised online and fell into the wrong crowd in London.

"I have been there and I did not like it. He was mixing with the wrong people," she told Italian weekly L'Espresso.

Collina said she understood many British imams want to send a strong signal and have said they are not prepared to give her son a Muslim funeral.

"I understand that asking to be forgiven means nothing, that's why I promise to dedicate my life to ensuring this does not happen again," she said.

Redouane married a British citizen in Ireland in 2012 and was not under surveillance, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny said.

Two men were arrested by Irish police over documentation related to Redouane, one of whom has been released without charge.

In Britain, a 27-year-old man remains in custody,  while British police arrested another man under counter terrorism laws as part of the investigation. “Detectives investigating the London Bridge terror attack have carried out a search warrant at an address in east London in the early hours of Wednesday,” police said in as statement. “A 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts,” police said.

Police earlier released 12 people who were held following the attack.

The London attack follows the May 22 suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena by Salman Abedi - killing 22 people, including children - who was also known to British intelligence services.

MAY UNDER PRESSURE

Prime Minister Theresa May vowed a hardline approach to terrorism, promising longer prison sentences and restricting the freedom and movements of terrorist suspects.

"And if our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it," she told supporters on Tuesday.

May's comments came ahead of Thursday's general election, with the campaign dominated by security issues.

She has faced criticism for her record on security in the six years she served as Britain's interior minister before becoming prime minister last year.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn took aim at May's response: "We will always keep the law under review, but don't believe would-be terrorists and suicide bombers will be deterred by longer sentences or restricting our rights at home."

He also pledged to hire more police officers, following a drop in 20,000 officers between 2009 and 2016, or around 14 percent, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank.

Security has dominated the campaign ahead of Thursday's general election, which was called by May on April 18 when her Conservative Party held a commanding lead over rivals Labour.

According to a poll published Tuesday by the group Survation, May's one-time 20-point lead over Labour has shrivelled to just over a single point - 41.6 percent to 40.4 percent.

INTERNATIONAL VICTIMS

On Tuesday a nationwide minute's silence was held for the victims of the London attack, which started when the three assailants mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge in a van.

Wearing fake suicide vests, they went on to knife revellers in the nearby Borough Market before being shot dead by police.

Amaq, an outlet affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, said the attack was carried out by "a detachment of fighters from Islamic State", referring to the group by its other name.

A Canadian charity worker, a Frenchman working at a bistro in the market, and two Australians - including a nurse - were among the dead.

Citizens of several nations were among the 48 injured, including Australia, Bulgaria, France, Greece and New Zealand.

Some 32 are still in hospital, 15 of whom are in a critical condition.

 

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