British police identify 2 attackers in Saturday rampage as residents of east London


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

British police identify 2 attackers in Saturday rampage as residents of east London

Three men in a speeding van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before getting out and stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 5 at 2:22 PM
Police on Monday named two of the three attackers who killed seven people during a rampage through central London, saying that both had lived only miles away from the scene of the carnage and that one had been on the radar of security services.London’s Metropolitan Police identified the assailants as 27-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt, a British citizen who was born in Pakistan, and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan.

Both lived in the Barking area of east London, only a half-hour’s drive from London Bridge and Borough Market — the two adjacent areas where victims were targeted Saturday night. Police did not identify the third attacker, saying efforts to confirm his identity are ongoing.

One of the attackers had been investigated in 2015, but police said they had no warning of a plot and the investigation had been dropped to a lower priority.

“Khuram Shazad Butt was known to the police and MI5,” police said in a statement, referring to Britain’s main domestic intelligence agency. “However, there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly. The other named man, Rachid Redouane, was not known.”

Butt had been known as an extremist in his east London neighborhood and was featured last year in a documentary on Britain’s Channel 4 called “The Jihadis Next Door.”

The police say they have 500 ongoing terrorism investigations and are keeping tabs on 3,000 individuals suspected of extremism. Investigations involving known plots, authorities say, take up the bulk of the security services’ resources.

Both of the assailants behind earlier attacks in Britain this spring also had attracted notice from authorities. But, like Butt, they were considered peripheral figures.

All three assailants in Saturday night’s attack were fatally shot by police within eight minutes of the first emergency calls.

Monday’s identifications came as the police investigation intensified, with raids in Barking and Newham, another east London neighborhood, and as politicians officially resumed campaigning ahead of an unpredictable election that will be held in just three days. As of late Monday afternoon, 11 people were in custody, with police probing possible connections to the attackers.

Saturday night’s attack injured dozens, including four police officers. Eighteen people remain in critical condition.

Speaking on the BBC, Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick said the majority of recent attacks have had a “domestic center of gravity,” although with some of them, there are “undoubtedly international dimensions.”

In an indication of the continuing threat, morning commuters on three major Thames River crossings found newly erected barriers Monday that separated roadways from walkways. The structures appeared designed to thwart the sort of attack in which assailants use vehicles to swerve into pedestrians — a tactic that has been used twice in three months.

Christine Archibald, 30, a Canadian from the western province of British Columbia, was the first victim of the Saturday attack to be named. The 30-year-old had worked at a homeless shelter in Calgary before moving to Europe to live with her fiance.

“Please honor her by making your community a better place. Volunteer your time and labor or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you,” her family said in a statement.

At a news briefing from the area of the attack, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “furious” that the attackers used Islam as justification for their actions.

“I’m angry and furious that these three men are seeking to justify their actions by using the faith that I belong to,” said Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor and the West’s most prominent Muslim politician. “The ideology they follow is perverse, and it is poisonous.”

Later on Monday, President Trump escalated an attack on Khan that he began Sunday. Trump had chided the mayor for attempting to calm the public by assuring that there was “no need to be alarmed.”

Khan’s comments were in reference to an intensified police presence on London streets. But Trump incorrectly implied that they were a comment about the attack itself.

On Monday, Trump tweeted: “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement.”

Khan’s spokesman said the mayor was focused on the city’s response to the attack and would not have any comment on Trump. On Sunday, the mayor’s office said Khan “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

Trump’s tweets were widely mocked in Britain, where the overwhelming mood was one of unity against terrorism and praise for security services.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused the U.S. president of lacking both “grace” and “sense.”

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has gone to great lengths to cultivate ties with Trump, defended Khan on Sunday while carefully avoiding any criticism of the U.S. president. Under repeated questioning from British journalists Monday, she said Khan was “doing a good job, and it’s wrong to say anything else.”

On Sunday night, tens of thousands attended an Ariana Grande benefit concert   that was originally intended to honor the victims of last month’s suicide bombing at the singer’s concert in Manchester but was expanded to recognize the victims in London.

Following the May 22 attack in Manchester, Saturday night’s van-and-knife rampage was the second mass-casualty attack to intrude on the homestretch of a parliamentary campaign that was once thought certain to end in a landslide for May and the Conservatives. The race has tightened in recent weeks, and terrorism has introduced an unexpected variable.

Rival party leaders lashed out at one another Monday over whether more police officers or more police powers are needed to combat terrorism.

During a speech in central London, May repeatedly refused to say that she regretted cutting police numbers during her time as home secretary. Instead, she said the Conservative Party had given police and security services enhanced powers to fight terrorism.

“We’ve given increased powers to be able to deal with terrorists, powers that Jeremy Corbyn has boasted he has always opposed,” she said.

Corbyn shot back, telling ITV that “we should never have cut the police numbers.”

Asked whether he would support calls for May to resign over the police cuts, Corbyn said, “Indeed I would,” before amending his comments to suggest that Thursday’s election is “perhaps the best opportunity to deal with it.”

Khan, a member of the Labour Party, also took aim at May’s cuts, noting in an appearance at Borough Market that the Metropolitan Police had had its budget slashed by 600 million pounds — about $775 million — with more cuts planned.

The department, he noted, not only has to combat terrorism, it also has to prepare for major international events and high-profile visitors. “Some welcome, some less so,” Khan noted in a subtle dig at Trump, who’s due in Britain for a state visit later this year.

Dick, the police chief, declined to be drawn into the debate, saying that “any police leader would always want more resources” but not directly addressing calls for greater funding.

With her premiership on the line, May took an aggressive and combative tone Sunday, telling the nation that “enough is enough” and insisting that there is “far too much tolerance for extremism in our country.”

“Things need to change,” she said in a speech outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.

She blamed the attack on the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism,” called for a thorough review of the nation’s counterterrorism policies and suggested that she will take a much tougher line if she wins Thursday’s vote.

May’s comments were welcomed Monday by the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organization that represents Muslim communities. Harun Khan, secretary general of the group, said in a statement that he was angry about the attack and that the council was determined to confront extremism.

“That is why we agree with the prime minister that things must change. Enough is enough,” he said. “We are ready to have those difficult conversations, as equal citizens with an equal stake in this fight.”

Investigators were focused on the likelihood that the attack had been inspired, if not directed, by the Islamic State. The militant group on Sunday asserted responsibility for the rampage and again called on its followers to carry out attacks in the West, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But the group did not provide any details to prove its involvement in the Saturday assault. Similar claims in the past have been shown to be unreliable.

Saturday’s killings were eerily similar in style to a March attack. In that attack, a man rammed pedestrians on a different Thames River crossing and fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

The three recent attacks were not connected, May said. But she described them as “a new trend” in which terrorists are “copying one another and often using the crudest means of attack.”

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