London Bridge terror attack: Police name attacker who stabbed 2 people to death

VIDEO: REUTERS
Videos on Twitter show police officers backing away from the suspect lying on the pavement.
Videos on Twitter show police officers backing away from the suspect lying on the pavement. PHOTO: MONKEYTRIPES/TWITTER
London Bridge is seen in the aftermath of a reported shooting in London on Nov 29, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media video.
London Bridge is seen in the aftermath of a reported shooting in London on Nov 29, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media video. PHOTO: REUTERS/LUKE POULTON
Police apprehend a man in a street on the south side of London Bridge on Nov 29, 2019.
Police apprehend a man in a street on the south side of London Bridge on Nov 29, 2019.PHOTO: AP
Videos and photographs on Twitter showed several police cars and buses on the bridge and a truck straddling several lanes.
Videos and photographs on Twitter showed several police cars and buses on the bridge and a truck straddling several lanes. PHOTO: TWITTER/ALLYLITIGATOR
People are evacuated from London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.
People are evacuated from London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.PHOTO: AP/PA
Police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.
Police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.PHOTO: AP/PA
Police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.
Police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: AP/PA
Witnesses told British media that the police arrived quickly at the scene soon after shots were heard.
Witnesses told British media that the police arrived quickly at the scene soon after shots were heard.PHOTO: YANN ATTEEN/TWITTER
Armed police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.
Armed police at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.PHOTO: AP/PA
Police officers and emergency staff work at the site of an incident at London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019.
Police officers and emergency staff work at the site of an incident at London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
<p>Police and emergency services at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019.
Police and emergency services at the scene of an incident on London Bridge in central London following a police incident on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: AP/PA
Police evacuate people from Borough Market on the south side of London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019.
Police evacuate people from Borough Market on the south side of London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: AP
An armed policman stands guard near London Bridge in central London after reports of shots being fired on Nov 29, 2019.
An armed policman stands guard near London Bridge in central London after reports of shots being fired on Nov 29, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
Police evacuate people from Borough Market on the south side of London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019.
Police evacuate people from Borough Market on the south side of London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: AP
Police officers with sniffer dogs are seen near the site of an incident at London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019.
Police officers with sniffer dogs are seen near the site of an incident at London Bridge in London on Nov 29, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - British police named the man who stabbed two people to death in London on Friday (Nov 29) in what the authorities called a terrorist attack as 28-year-old Usman Khan, who had been previously convicted of terrorism offences and released from prison last year.

“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.

“He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence and clearly, a key line of inquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

Police shot the man dead after he stabbed two people to death and wounded three more before being wrestled to the ground by bystanders.

The attacker, who was wearing a fake suicide vest, went on the rampage just before 2pm (10pm Singapore time), targeting people at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge in the heart of the city’s financial district – the scene of a deadly attack by Islamist militants two years ago.

The Times newspaper, citing unnamed government sources, reported that the man had previously been convicted of an "Islamist terrorism-related offence" and was released from prison about a year ago after agreeing to wear an electronic tag.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said sentences should be served.

“It is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early, and it is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists,” he said.

Once the attacker was out on the street, a dramatic video posted on Twitter captured the moment when half a dozen bystanders tackled the suspect on London Bridge and grabbed his knife.

The video showed police dragging one man off the suspect before an officer took careful aim. Two shots rang out. The man stopped moving.

Johnson, who has called a snap election for Dec 12 and is due to host Nato leaders including US President Donald Trump next week, praised those who took on the man for their courage and said Britain would never be cowed.

“I... want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others,” Johnson told reporters in Downing Street.

“For me they represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all of our country,” Johnson said. “This country will never be cowed, or divided, or intimidated by this sort of attack.”

He said the incident was now thought to have been contained and vowed that anyone else involved would be hunted down. He later chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency security committee.

Mr Basu, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, said specialist armed officers from the City of London police shot the suspect, who died at the scene. He said a hoax explosive device was strapped to his body.

“Our Counter Terrorism detectives will be working round the clock to identify those who have lost their lives, to support all the victims and their families,” London police chief Cressida Dick told reporters.

“We are also working at full tilt to understand exactly what has happened and whether anyone else was involved.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson’s main opponent in the election, said he was shocked by the incident and that his thoughts were with those caught up in it.

Campaigning has been temporarily suspended.

Commissioner Dick said the attacker launched his assault at Fishmongers’ Hall, a grand building at the northern end of the bridge.

One of those who confronted the attacker there told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he had kicked him in the head to make him drop the knife.

 
 
 

Stevie Hurst, who gives tours of the capital, said he and a colleague took on the suspect with about five others.

“I jumped in and kicked him in the head to make him release his knife. A few others did so,” he told the Telegraph. “He was shouting ‘get off me, get off me’.”

As three armed police officers circled the suspect in the shadow of the Shard skyscraper, western Europe’s tallest building, one bystander in a suit and tie grabbed the knife and swiftly retreated as police engaged.

The city’s mayor Sadiq Khan said ordinary Londoners had demonstrated “breathtaking heroism” in disarming the knife-wielding attacker despite him having a device which they did not know to be a hoax.

“What’s remarkable about the images we’ve seen is the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them,” Khan told reporters.

The ambulance service declared a “major incident” in the area and London Bridge station, a busy commuter hub, was closed for a number of hours.


Police officers gather near The Monument in central London, on Nov 29, 2019, after reports of shots being fired on London Bridge. PHOTO: AFP

PREVIOUS ATTACKS 

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.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said its fighters were responsible, but the British authorities have cast doubt on those claims.

 
 

The month before, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester, as crowds began leaving a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

In March the same year, an attacker stabbed a policeman close to London’s Parliament buildings after a car ploughed into pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge.

Six people died, including the assailant and the policeman he stabbed, and at least 20 were injured in what police called a “marauding terrorist attack”.

Earlier this month, Britain had lowered its national terrorism threat level to “substantial” from “severe”, its lowest level since 2014.