As the British nation stood still in a sign of respect to the victims of the latest terrorist attack in London on Tuesday, security issues are now the focus of U.K. election campaigning with only two days remaining before the June 8 snap poll.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson voiced concern over apparent security failings as at least one attacker from Saturday’s three-man rampage in London had previously been identified as an extremist, even appearing in a 2016 television documentary.
“People are going to look at the front pages today and they’re going to say: ‘How on earth could we have let this guy or possibly more through the net?’”, Johnson told broadcaster Sky News on Tuesday.
Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, one of the terrorists shot dead by police on Saturday, took part in a Channel 4 program called The Jihadis Next Door last year.
“What happened? How could he possibly be on a Channel 4 program and be committing atrocities like this?’ That is a question that will need to be answered by MI5, by th e police, as the investigation goes on,” Johnson added.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May has refrained from answering similar questions, saying she would not comment on the issue while an investigation was ongoing. Latest polling has suggested a strong lead previously enjoyed by May's Conservatives has evaporate. New data from pollsters YouGov said the U.K. could be headed for a hung parliament, with no one party having overall control.
Butt’s involvement in Saturday’s terror attack has added to the scrutiny faced by the security services which also failed to stop Salman Abedi from killing 22 people in a suicide bomb attack in Manchester almost two weeks before the latest London attack.
Following the Manchester bombing, May had said Abedi was on the security services’ radar “up to a point”.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has also urged the police and security services to answer questions as to why they did not act on prior warnings about Butt’s behavior.
“Not unreasonably, these questions are being asked. I’m sure the police will look into what they knew, what they could have done, what they did do and if anything could have been done differently,” Khan told the BBC.
Also hitting out at the reduced police numbers under the last two governments lead by the Conservatives, the Labour mayor also warned London would be more dangerous under planned budget cuts, which he said could lead to as many as 12,000 fewer police officers.
"We’ve worked out that if they carry through with their plans we could be losing between 3,000 and 12,000 additional officers.
"That’s not sustainable. There’s no doubt fewer police officers means we are in more danger,” Khan said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already called on May to resign.
The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by around 20,000 since 2009, according to Home Office figures.
Police identified Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a Pakistan-born individual who had been previously investigated by MI5 and U.K. police and Rachid Redouane, 30, who is believed to be of Moroccan or Libyan origin, as two of the London attackers on Monday night.
Italian media reports on Tuesday identified the third attacker as Youssef Zaghba, a Moroccan-Italian. U.K. police later confirmed the reports.
At least seven people died and almost 50 were injured when three attackers drove into crowds in central London before going on a stabbing spree. Police later shot the three assailants dead.
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