ISIS Claims Responsibility for London Bridge Terror Attack

Published December 1st, 2019 - 07:52 GMT
 man suspected of stabbing two people to death in a terror attack on London Bridge was an ex-prisoner convicted of terrorism offences and released last year, police said Saturday. (Oli SCARFF / AFP)
man suspected of stabbing two people to death in a terror attack on London Bridge was an ex-prisoner convicted of terrorism offences and released last year, police said Saturday. (Oli SCARFF / AFP)
Highlights
Jack Merritt had been running a course at Fishmonger's Hall when he was stabbed to death by Usman Khan.

ISIS last night claimed the London Bridge terror attack was carried out by one of its fighters.

The terrorist organisation said Usman Khan, 28, who killed two and injured several more when he went on a knife rampage in central London on Friday, acted on their behalf.

The group, however, did not provide any evidence this is the case as it made the claim through its news agency. 

It added that the attack was made in response to Islamic State calls to target countries that have been part of a coalition fighting the jihadist group. 

'The person who carried out the London attack... was a fighter from the Islamic State, and did so in response to calls to target citizens of coalition countries,' IS said, referring to a multi-country alliance against the group. 


It had previously been speculated that the attack may have been revenge for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  

Khan was shot and killed by armed police after he stabbed two people to death and wounded three others while wearing a fake suicide vest on London Bridge. 

The attacker, who was jailed in 2012 for his role in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange, had first been tackled and disarmed by a group of brave bystanders on the bridge.   

Jack Merritt, 25, from Cottenham, was yesterday named by his father as one of two victims killed by Khan at a prisoner rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers' Hall, where the attack began on Friday afternoon. 

Mr Merritt was the course co-ordinator for Learning Together, an education scheme run by the University of Cambridge's Institute of Criminology that killer Khan had attended on Friday.

The group had been hosting a conference at the Grade II-listed building when the attack began, with Khan one of the former criminals attending the rehabilitation seminar for prisoners. 

Mr Merritt's father David said in a tweet that his son 'would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily'.

'R.I.P. Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog.'

He also said his son had been a 'champion' for those who had been 'dealt a losing hand by life, who ended up in the prison system'.

Jack's godfather Paul Brooker described his death as 'a sickening waste of a young, hugely talented life', adding he was 'smart, funny and loved his work'.

Neighbour Dawn Marr, 80, said: 'Jack was such a fine young man. His father was very proud of him. I used to babysit for him and his brother. It's a terrible loss.'

And another neighbour, who asked not to be named, added: 'It is devastating news. We're in the process of letting our children know.

'They went to school with Jack, so it's all very sad and shocking.'

Giving a statement outside Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said Khan was subject to an 'extensive list of licence conditions' on his release from prison and that 'to the best of my knowledge he was complying with those conditions'.

David said: 'Jack spoke so highly of all the people he worked with & he loved his job.

'Thank you for your support. I know his colleagues are in shock- please look after each other at this terrible time.'

British rapper David Orobosa Omoregie, known only as Dave, also paid tribute to the graduate on Twitter. He wrote: 'Rest in peace brother. One of the most painful things. Jack Merritt was the best guy.

'Dedicated his life to helping others, was genuinely an honour to have met someone like you and everything you've done for us I'll never ever forget'.

Jack studied law at Manchester University before doing an postgraduate degree at Cambridge. He had recently enjoyed a birthday weekend in Spain with his girlfriend, Leanne O'Brien. 

Lecturers recalled him being 'destined for great things'.

Colleague Serena Wright described him as 'the sweetest, most caring and selfless individual I've ever met', adding on Twitter: 'I loved him to pieces.

'The warmest heart, always with time for anyone. Completely irreplaceable.'

A woman was also killed and three others were injured in the knife rampage carried out by Usman Khan. 

Police were called to the north side of London Bridge at 1.58pm on Friday, after reports of a stabbing near Bank station and Fishmongers' Hall, which was hosting an event called 'Learning Together'. 

Khan had threatened to blow up the building at the start of the rampage before he headed towards London Bridge wearing a fake suicide vest.  

Minutes later, witnesses saw the knifeman being wrestled to the ground by members of the public before armed-response officers confronted him at 2.03pm and shot him dead.

Two brave members of the public chased after the knifeman, one armed with a narwhal tusk and another with a fire extinguisher. 

Armed police, who confronted the suspect at 2.03pm, were heard shouting 'stop moving' twice before shooting the man at close range.

The workshop run by Jack featured storytelling and creative writing moments before Khan began his attack.  

Khan had previously participated in Cambridge University's Learning Together prisoner rehabilitation sessions but had showed 'no cause for concern,' a source with knowledge of the programme said.

The conference was posted on eventbrite and stated that it was 'a day to celebrate, connect and collaborate'.

Workshops included interactive storytelling and creative writing workshops, and a panel discussion was due to take place on 'the power of education for social justice'. 

According to the Learning Together schedule of the day, Khan began his terror spree during the storytelling and creative writing session. 

Academics and criminal justice campaigners tweeted about the day at the grade II listed building and a photograph was posted online of the gathering. 

The 28-year-old attacker is understood to have been invited to share his experience of prison and wore black clothing and sand-coloured boots, according to The Times. 

A witness named Coralie said around 100 guests and 50 staff were in attendance.

Khan returned to the hall via the grand staircase after the morning session where he later threatened to blow up the hall, a member of staff said. 

He reportedly started 'lashing out' in a room downstairs and was heading upstairs when he was tackled by the other conference-goers and 'bundled out' of the front door past a room of unarmed people.

According to the source, all those involved in tackling Khan, with the exception of the man reported to be a Polish chef, were ex-offenders.

At the time of the incident they were all either on day release, or had been released on licence.

One of the group was James Ford, who admitted the murder of a woman with the mental age of a 15-year-old, in 2014.

Amanda Champion, 21, was strangled and slashed across the throat by Ford in a completely random attack in Ashford, Kent.

Ford was caught after a Samaritans worker broke a vow of anonymity to tell police that a man who had phoned the confidential service 45 times had confessed to killing a woman.

The source said that risk assessment is 'front and centre' in the Learning Together programme, due to the involvement of students.

They added that normal procedures by police and probation service had been undertaken with Khan and he had shown 'no cause for concern' up until the moment of the incident.   

Khan was jailed in 2012 for terrorism offences for his part in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and the US Embassy and kill Boris Johnson.

In an old letter from 2012 the terrorist begged to be shown mercy as he asked for a course to be arranged so that Khan could 'properly learn Islam and its teachings, and I can prove I don't carry the extreme views which I might have carried before.' 

He writes: 'I am much more mature and want to live my life as a good Muslim and also a good citizen of Britain.

'So if you could arrange something for me and send me the details, this would be truly appreciated.' 

The letter emerged as a furious political row began yesterday after it was revealed that Khan was released automatically from prison last year. 

As part of the plotting, Khan's group planned to set up a training camp in Kashmir, where his family had land. 

Khan, born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, originally received an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum of eight years behind bars after his 2012 arrest, meaning he would remain locked up for as long as necessary, to protect the public.

Passing judgment at the time, Mr Justice Wilkie said: 'In my judgment, these offenders would remain, even after a lengthy term of imprisonment, of such a significant risk that the public could not be adequately protected by their being managed on licence in the community, subject to conditions, by reference to a preordained release date.'

But this sentence was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term instead, meaning he would be automatically released after eight years.

Judges including Lord Justice Leveson said at the time when reversing the original sentence that the Parole Board was best placed to decide when he would be safe to be released from jail.

But yesterday the Parole Board released a statement saying that Khan was released automatically and they did not make the decision.

It has also emerged that he was a student and 'personal friend' of hate preacher Anjem Choudary. Khan spent years preaching on stalls that were linked to al-Muhajiroun, the banned terror group once led by Choudary. 

Earlier, the Queen paid tribute to those who died as well as those who bravely fought the attacker. 

She said: 'Prince Philip and I have been saddened to hear of the terror attacks at London Bridge. 

'We send our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones and who have been affected by yesterday's terrible violence.

'I express my enduring thanks to the police and emergency services, as well as the brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others.' 

The attack coincided with a similar rampage in Holland which saw three children stabbed on a shopping street in The Hague early on Friday evening, Dutch police said. 

And in Paris, the Gare Du Nord train station was briefly evacuated after an alleged explosive device was found in an unattended bag.

Unverified pictures show the device, which resembles a mortar shell, inside an old duffel bag in France. However, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick insisted Khan acted alone.  

In the letter that Khan wrote from prison, obtained by ITV News, he asked his lawyer to be enrolled in a programme of deradicalisation to 'prove to the authorities' that he was no longer 'immature'.

He said he wanted to 'learn Islam and its teachings' through a course run by the Home Office, and 'live my life as a good Muslim'. 

His lawyer Vajahat Sharif told the Guardian: 'He requested intervention by a deradicaliser when he was in prison. The only option was the probation service and they cannot deal with these offenders. He asked me on the phone to get assistance from a specific deradicaliser.

'He asked (me) once or twice before he was released in 2018. Probation do a good job with conventional offenders but they can't deal with ideological offenders.'

At the time of the attack, Khan had been attending a conference on rehabilitation hosted by Cambridge University at Fishmonger's Hall. 

Prior to the attack, the 28-year-old had shown 'no cause for concern', a source with knowledge of the rehabilitation programme said. 

It has also emerged that he was a student and 'personal friend' of hate preacher Anjem Choudary. Khan spent years preaching on stalls that were linked to al-Muhajiroun, the banned terror group once led by Choudary. 

As part of the plotting which led to his 2012 arrest, Khan's group planned to set up a training camp in Kashmir, where his family had land. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that it was a 'mistake' to release Khan from prison and has vowed to crack down on early releases for inmates. The PM visited the scene of the attack on Saturday with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Khan was released on licence in December 2018 and was still wearing a monitoring tag at the time of the attack, which he carried out while wearing a fake suicide vest.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu confirmed that a man and a woman were killed in the attack which saw Khan stab up to five people before being shot dead by armed police as hundreds of commuters fled in terror.   

Anti-terror police have raided a house in the Staffordshire area linked to the killer, believed to be a bail hostel for offenders. 

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders, before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge next to the Hall.

Video footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another, reportedly a Polish man who worked at the Hall, lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from the wall inside the Hall.

It is understood that Khan started 'lashing out' in a downstairs room of the Hall but was grabbed by the conference-goers and bundled out of the front door as he tried to go upstairs.

Meanwhile, the Queen has sent 'thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones' in the London Bridge attack and praised the 'brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others'.

Khan had been attending a seminar in Fishmongers' Hall run by Cambridge University's Criminology Department to help offenders reintegrate into society following their release from jail. 

He had threatened to blow up the building at the start of the five-minute rampage which ended in his death on London Bridge. The police operation was reactive and not believed to be intelligence-led. 

As well as the two deaths, three others - a man and two women - are being treated in hospital. Khan is believed to have had a gun in his bag.  

Dramatic video footage showed him being tackled to the ground by at least six members of the public. One man chased the attacker with a fire extinguisher while another used a Narwhal whale tusk to restrain him. 

Khan had previously been arrested on December 20, 2010, four days before he and his nine-strong Al-Qaeda-inspired gang had planned to plant a bomb in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange. 

After arresting Khan's gang, police found a handwritten list of targets which included the U.S. Embassy and the homes of London Mayor Boris Johnson, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral and two rabbis.

 

The gang also carried out surveillance of other possible targets including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye.

They planned to send five bombs in the post to London synagogues and the Church of Scientology headquarters, as well as spreading panic in Stoke-on-Trent by planting bombs in pub and club toilets.

Their plot was foiled after the security services bugged their homes and cars and heard discussions of a 'Mumbai' atrocity on the streets of Britain, mirroring the guerrilla-style 2008 attack in India. 

Khan, then aged 20, was secretly recorded talking about plans to recruit UK radicals to attend a training camp in Kashmir.

He said there were only three possible outcomes for him and his fellow jihadists: victory, martyrdom or prison.

Khan's then home in Persia Walk, Stoke-on-Trent, was bugged as he discussed plans for the firearms training camp, which was to be disguised as a legitimate madrassa, an Islamic religious school, the court heard.

Discussing terrorist fundraising, he said in Britain he could earn in a day what people in Kashmir are paid in a month.

He went on: 'On jobseeker's allowance we can earn that, never mind working for that.'

Khan said he could only see three results: 'There's victory, what we hope for, there's shahada (death as martyrs), or there's prison.'

The group was also linked to Anjem Choudary by a mobile phone seized from an address of one of the plotters, which contained material relating to protests by the banned Al-Muhajiroun group the hate preacher founded. 

During a late-night meeting on December 4 2010, Khan contrasted the action he was planning in support of jihad with the passive approach of Choudary.

'Brothers like Anjem, they ain't going nowhere,' he said.

Choudary was jailed after pledging allegiance to ISIS following a decades-long cat and mouse game with the authorities.

The Choudary-led extremist group al-Muhajiroun was outlawed by the Government following the 2005 7/7 attacks on London but it has continued to operate under a number of different images.

He helped radicalise some of Britain's most notorious terrorists, including London Bridge terror attacker ringleader Khuram Butt, and Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London.

Chaudary's al-Muhajiroun group often targeted mixed-up or vulnerable young men.

When first sentenced, yesterday's attacker Khan was handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) with a minimum term of eight years by Mr Justice Wilkie in February 2012. 

This was overturned by the Court of Appeal in April 2013, when the indeterminate sentence was quashed. Instead, he was handed 16 years in jail with an extended licence period of five years. 

At the time he was jailed, Khan had spent 408 days on remand and this was taken into account when considering his release date. 

He was eligible for release after serving half of his 16-year jail term, less the time he had already spent on remand. 

Khan was obliged to adhere to the notification provisions of the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act for a total of 30 years. 

He was released from prison after agreeing to wear an electronic tag and be monitored by authorities. 

The Parole Board was tasked with judging whether Khan was safe to release but has now said it had no involvement in freeing him from prison.

In a statement, it said: 'We have every sympathy with those affected by the dreadful events that happened in London Bridge yesterday.

'Given the seriousness of this attack, it is understandable that there is speculation about the attacker's release from prison.

'The Parole Board can confirm it had no involvement with the release of the individual identified as the attacker, who appears to have been released automatically on licence (as required by law), without ever being referred to the Board.' 

Passing sentence, the judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, said this was a 'serious, long-term venture in terrorism' that could also have resulted in atrocities in Britain.

He said: 'It was envisaged by them all that ultimately they and the other recruits may return to the UK as trained and experienced terrorists available to perform terrorist attacks in this country, on one possibility contemplated in the context of the return of British troops from Afghanistan.'

He added that Khan and two others appeared to be the more 'serious jihadists' of the group.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC, opening the Crown's case at the start of a three-day sentencing hearing on February 6, 2012, said: 'These defendants had in overview decided that ultimately they would be responsible for very serious acts of terrorism.

'What was observed during the indictment period was planning for the immediate future, not involving suicide attacks, so that there would be a long-term future which would include further acts of terrorism.'

Speaking before chairing a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra on Friday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had 'long argued' that 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, that I think the public will want to see'. 

Chris Phillips, a former head of the UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said: 'The criminal justice system needs to look at itself.

'We're letting people out of prison, we're convicting people for very, very serious offences and then they are releasing them back into society when they are still radicalised.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Security minister Brandon Lewis refused to say whether the attack showed a 'failure' by authorities, and repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of the incident, but said that more assessment was needed of the sentences given to violent criminals.

He said: 'I think it is right that we do have to look again at the sentences, as I say, around these violent crimes.

'The Prime Minister has argued that, has made that point previously and made it very clearly last night.

'We will want to move very swiftly because our first priority is the safety of people around the country.'

Residents living near a flat in Stafford believed to have been occupied by the London Bridge attacker spoke of their shock as a police search continued at the property - and told how he was seen walking alone in the area.

Retired police officer Justin Lightfoot, who lives in a nearby street, said he instantly recognised Khan when a friend showed him a mugshot of the 28-year-old in a media report on Saturday morning.

Mr Lightfoot, who runs a gardening business, said he had never seen Khan, who was wearing Western clothing, carrying anything or walking with anyone else.

He said: 'The only thing I've seen is him just walking past my house.

'I've seen his picture this morning online and when I saw that obviously I recognised him. A friend showed me the picture and as soon as I saw it, I recognised him straight away.

'It's just frightening when somebody lives so close to you - you don't know what's going on so near to your home.'

Mr Lightfoot added: 'I've seen him for probably the last three or four weeks. Whether he was there longer or not I don't know.

'When I came home from work last night I saw the police here between half four and five o'clock. There was a couple of police cars, a police car across the road.

'I had this feeling it might be something to do with that (the London Bridge attack) and then when I heard it on the radio last night and it said Staffordshire and then Stafford... it's just frightening.'

Other residents said they had seen police speaking to other residents of the three-story block of flats on Wolverhampton Road after officers sealed off the building.

Another resident, whose house overlooks the flats, said: 'I've certainly seen police there before, but what for I'm not sure.

'I haven't seen the man who lived there for at least a week or so.'

Meanwhile, a maintenance worker who witnessed the London Bridge knife attack claims he was told the assailant had been in prison for terrorism offences.

Jamie Bakhit, a 24-year-old from Purley, Croydon, said he spoke to one of the men who helped wrestle the knifeman to the ground after they were taken to the Salvation Army headquarters to be interviewed by police.

He told said: 'The guy who was on top of him said he [the attacker] had been in prison for terrorism, apparently.

'Some of the guys who were on top of him were ex-prisoners and they had all been in the Fishmongers' Hall. The guy told me he was in prison with the attacker.'

The maintenance worker said he had just turned onto London Bridge and was heading southbound when he saw the four men tackle the attacker.

Mr Bakhit said: 'As I got on the bridge armed police pulled in front of me. There were already four pedestrians on top of the guy on the floor. 'One of them [pedestrians] was shouting 'shoot him in the f***ing head'.

'I'm still in my van at this point, trying to turn around. Then the police say 'get out of the van', so I had to leave it there.

'I then saw them [police] shoot him three or four times.

'I was in shock. I wanted to get away. Everyone was shouting run because he had something across his chest. It was crazy.'

Around six members of the public worked to disarm the attacker after he went on a rampage outside Bank station and Fishmongers' Hall on the north side of the bridge, killing two. 

An unnamed hero, who was inside the conference hall, was said to have grabbed a five-inch narwhal tusk from the wall' and went to confront the terrorist. 

Mr Johnson, called a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra on Friday evening and cancelled his General Election campaigning events on Saturday. The Lib Dems have also decided to temporarily suspend campaigning.

Several people were stabbed by the knifeman before he was stopped in his tracks on London Bridge, which was the scene of the bloody massacre in summer 2017 where eight people were killed and 48 seriously injured.

Scotland Yard said the incident started at nearby Fishmongers' Hall, and that police had 'bravely and professionally confronted the suspect' within five minutes of being called.

Footage on social media showed one man being urged to move away by armed officers before the suspect was shot at point-blank range, as another bystander - understood to be a plain clothes officer - could be seen carrying a large knife from the scene.

Another video appeared to show a person on a stretcher, surrounded by emergency services staff and vehicles, being given CPR by responders following the attack.

The members of the public who intervened have been widely praised, with mayor of London Sadiq Khan hailing their 'breathtaking heroism'.

Witnesses said the suspect appeared to be wearing a suicide vest but Neil Basu, the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said the vest was a fake.

He said police were called at around 2pm on Friday to a stabbing 'at a premises near London Bridge'.

After being shot, the suspect in Friday's attack raised his arms towards his head before lying still. A second knife could be seen on the ground near his body.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu released an update on the ongoing investigation shortly after midnight. 

He said: 'The investigation into the attack near London Bridge continues at a pace. 

'Whilst we are still in the early stages of the investigation, at this time we are not actively seeking anyone else in relation to the attack.

'However, we continue to make fast time enquiries to ensure that no other people were involved in this attack and that there is no outstanding threat to the public.

'As I stated earlier, police were called at 13:58hrs to a stabbing at premises near to London Bridge, EC1. Emergency services attended, including officers from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police.

'A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers and I can confirm that he died at the scene. 'We are now in a position to confirm the identity of the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan (10.03.1991), who had been residing in the Staffordshire area. As a result, officers are, tonight, carrying out searches at an address in Staffordshire.

'This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences. He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence and clearly, a key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.

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

'The circumstances, as we currently understand them, are that the attacker attended an event earlier on Friday afternoon at Fishmonger's Hall called 'Learning Together'. We believe that the attack began inside before he left the building and proceeded onto London Bridge, where he was detained and subsequently confronted and shot by armed officers.

'Extensive cordons are likely to remain in place for some time and I would ask the public to continue to avoid the area.

'Public safety is our top priority and we are enhancing police patrols in the City and across London.'   

The Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog said it has launched an investigation into the police shooting of the London Bridge attacker which is standard for such incidents.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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