London Bridge: Attacker had been convicted of terror offence

The man who carried out Friday’s stabbing attack at London Bridge was a former prisoner convicted of terrorism offences.

The attacker, named by police as 28-year-old Usman Khan, was out of prison on licence at the time of the attack, in which a man and a woman were killed and three others were injured.

Khan was shot dead by officers after members of the public restrained him.

Police declared the attack a terrorist incident.

Khan was known to the authorities, having been convicted for terrorism offences in 2012. He was released from prison on licence in December 2018, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said.

The Parole Board said it had no involvement in Khan’s release, saying he “appears to have been released automatically on licence (as required by law)”.

The Times reported that Khan’s release came after he agreed to wear an electronic tag and have his movements monitored.

Prisoner rehabilitation

The attack began at 13:58 GMT on Friday at Fishmongers’ Hall, at the north end of London Bridge, where a Cambridge University conference on prisoner rehabilitation – called Learning Together – was taking place.

The suspect had been attending the event, where dozens of people – including students and former prisoners – were present.

Mr Basu said the attack is understood to have started inside the building before continuing onto London Bridge itself, where Khan was shot by armed officers.

Officers are carrying out a search believed to be linked to the attack at flats in Stafford, close to the town centre.

Mr Basu said police were not actively seeking anyone else in relation to the attack, although they were making “fast time enquiries” to make sure there was no outstanding threat to the public.

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The Met Police is urging anyone with information – particularly anyone who was at Fishmongers’ Hall – to contact them.

Two victims

A man and a woman were killed during the attack. Three others – a man and two women – were also injured and remain in hospital.

Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, said, on Friday, that one was in a critical but stable condition, another was stable and the third had less serious injuries.

None of those killed or injured has so far been named and officers were still working to identify those who died, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said, on Friday.

‘Extreme courage’

The actions of the public have been widely praised, including by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Ms Dick, who said they had shown “extreme courage”.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show passers-by holding Khan down, while a man in a suit could be seen running from him, having apparently retrieved a large knife.

One witness described how a man at the event at Fishmongers’ Hall grabbed a narwhal tusk – a long white horn that protrudes from the whale – that was on the wall, and went outside to confront the attacker.

Another person let off a fire extinguisher in the face of the attacker to try to keep him at bay.

Earlier, Mr Basu said Khan was wearing what was believed to be a hoax explosive device.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said attackers wear fake suicide vests to add to public panic and, in some cases, to ensure police shoot them dead.

To some attackers, martyrdom is preferable to capture, trial and spending many years in prison, our correspondent added.

‘In awe’

The prime minister, who has returned to Downing Street from his constituency, convened a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee.

He praised the emergency services and witnesses who intervened, and said he had “long argued that it is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan he was “in awe of the bravery, the courageousness of ordinary Londoners” who stopped the attacker.

He told BBC Breakfast there would be an increased presence of armed and unarmed police officers in London over the weekend, adding they were there to “reassure us – not because there is an additional or heightened threat”.

The London mayor also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the UK had to make sure the “right lessons” were learned from the attack.

“You can’t disaggregate terrorism and security from cuts made to resources of the police, of probation – the tools that judges have,” he said.

But security minister Brandon Lewis told the programme funding for counter-terrorism policing had consistently increased since 2015.

“We will make sure that the police has got the resource that it needs,” he added.

“The Metropolitan Police is the best-funded per capita police force in the country and we will continue to ensure they have the resources they need to keep us safe.”

Campaigning ahead of the 12 December general election was expected to continue on Saturday, although the political parties cancelled events due to the attack.

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‘Get off and run’

Witnesses spoke to the BBC about what they saw.

Amanda Hunter, who was on a bus on London Bridge at the time, said: “All of a sudden [it] stopped and there was some commotion and I looked out the window and I just saw these three police officers going over to a man…

“It seemed like there was something in his hand, I’m not 100% sure. But then one of the police officers shot him.”

Bus driver Mustafa Salih, 62, was travelling from Borough High Street towards London Bridge where he saw emergency vehicles and the police cordon.

He told BBC London: “A police officer came up to me and said ‘turn off your engine, get off and run’.

“I looked up and I could see a crowd of people coming towards me.

“One woman was crying. I ran back down to Borough High Street. It was all very scary as we did not know what was happening.”

More from witnesses at the scene

London Bridge was the scene of another attack, on 3 June 2017, in which eight people were killed and many more injured.

This latest attack comes after the UK’s terrorism threat level was downgraded on 4 November from “severe” to “substantial”, meaning that attacks were thought to be “likely” rather than “highly likely”.

The terror threat level is reviewed every six months by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which makes recommendations independent of government.

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