London trio tried to hire 7.5 tonne truck

Handout pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Service yesterday show: Top: The white Renault van used by the attackers to carry out the June 3 London Bridge terrorist attack. Left: Debris including Molotov cocktails and blowtorch gas canisters
Debris including Molotov cocktails and blowtorch gas canisters scattered on the pavement, beside the open door of the van used by the three attackers to mow down pedestrians. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Handout pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Service yesterday show: Top: The white Renault van used by the attackers to carry out the June 3 London Bridge terrorist attack. Left: Debris including Molotov cocktails and blowtorch gas canisters
Handout pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Service yesterday show: Above: The white Renault van used by the attackers to carry out the June 3 London Bridge terrorist attack.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Terrorists also had stockpile of Molotov cocktails, says counter-terror chief

LONDON • The three Islamists who killed eight people by driving a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and attacking nearby revellers had initially tried to hire a 7.5 tonne truck, the head of the British capital's counter-terrorism unit said.

Commander Dean Haydon also revealed that the men had a stockpile of petrol bombs in their van and carried out their deadly attack with pink ceramic knives.

The discoveries, especially of the plan to hire a truck, suggested that more people could have been killed.

"Getting hold of a 7.5 tonne lorry - the effects could have been even worse," he told reporters last Friday.

Although Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have claimed responsibility for the attack, Commander Haydon said there was no evidence that the attackers - Pakistani-born Briton Khuram Butt, Italian Youssef Zaghba and Rachid Redouane who had links to Libya, Morocco and Ireland - were directed by anyone else, either in Britain or abroad.

"We're not looking for a wider network," said the head of London's Counter Terrorism Command, adding that officers were still trying to piece together how the three men had met.


Above: A 30cm-long pink ceramic knife, one of the three used by the attackers. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

On the morning of the attack, Butt, who Commander Haydon said was believed to be the ringleader, tried to rent a 7.5 tonne truck but did not provide payment details. It was unclear why he could not pay, or if he lacked the necessary licence to drive such a vehicle.

"Because of the fact his payment method failed, he couldn't get hold of that lorry," Commander Haydon said. "My view at the moment is that he then went to plan B and ended up hiring the van instead."

Shortly before 1700 GMT (1am Singapore time), Butt received a text message confirming his hire of a Renault van instead. At about 1730 GMT, the men drove to pick up the van before heading to Zaghba's home in east London.

At 1838 GMT, they left and two hours later the van reached London Bridge which they drove along twice before targeting pedestrians on the sidewalk on their third run.

Three people on the bridge were struck and killed by the van, believed to have been driven by Butt, before the men abandoned the vehicle and began to attack people in bars and restaurants in the nearby bustling Borough Market area.

The men were armed with identical 30cm-long pink ceramic knives, strapped to their wrists with leather bound around the handle. Police last Friday released pictures of one of the knives as they appealed for information.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said forensic officers examining the white rental van found "13 wine bottles with rags wrapped around them and believed to be filled with a flammable liquid", as well as two blowtorches.

Commander Haydon said "it's feasible when you look at their actions, they were still fairly close to the van, there is a possibility they could have come back to the van".

"Was there a plan B that, after they had stabbed individuals, were they then planning to come back to the van and ignite the Molotov cocktails and that was a secondary attack? We don't know - I can only surmise."

He said Redouane's home - an apartment in Barking, east London - was the safe house where the men put their plot together. There the police found a copy of the Quran which had been left open on a page describing martyrdom, and other items linked to their attack.

Overall, police searched 12 properties in Barking and Ilford, arresting 18 people. Five remain in custody after 13 were released without charge.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'London trio tried to hire 7.5 tonne truck'. Print Edition | Subscribe