London Attack Suspect Known as Abs Appeared in Film About Extremists


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Khuram Shazad Butt, also known as “Abs.” The Metropolitan Police in London have identified him as one of the three men who carried out the deadly attack at London Bridge and Borough Market.CreditMetropolitan Police

LONDON — Everyone called him “Abs.” He gave out Halloween candy to children and taught them how to play Ping-Pong. He invited his neighbors to barbecue.

But Khurum Shazad Butt was not the typical resident of the East London neighborhood of Barking. He dressed in the religious gown of a conservative Muslim — with a tracksuit and sneakers underneath. He turned up in a Channel 4 documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door.” And now London’s Metropolitan Police have identified him as one of the three men who carried out the deadly terror attack on Saturday at London Bridge and Borough Market.

Mr. Butt and his accomplices drove a van onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, running over pedestrians, before jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing patrons at the bars and restaurants of Borough Market. They killed seven people and injured dozens before they were shot and killed by police less than 10 minutes after the rampage began.

It was the van that struck a chord with Ken Chigbo, one of Mr. Butt’s neighbors in Barking.

“He approached me about a week ago, making conversation, and found out I’m moving home,” Mr. Chigbo recalled in a phone interview on Sunday, before the police had officially identified Mr. Butts as one of the attackers. “He was just being polite. Then he said, ‘Look, Ken, where did you get your van from? How much did you pay? Do they do it in automatic?’ ”

Another neighbor said Mr. Butt lived with his wife and young children, including a newborn, in the Elizabeth Fry Apartments on Kings Road in Barking.

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“His wife just gave birth, the baby was two weeks old,” said Nasser Ali, who lives in the building facing Mr. Butt’s apartment.

Residents of the Elizabeth Fry Apartments said they would see Mr. Butt coming and going from the apartment complex. “I just saw him going in and out,” said another neighbor, Shehzad Khurram. “I saw him walking his kids.”

On Monday evening, the police identified Mr. Butt, 27, and another man, Rachid Redouane, 30, as two of the three people who carried out the attack. Mr. Butt was a British citizen who was born in Pakistan. Mr. Redouane had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan, the police said, and also sometimes used a pseudonym, Rachid Elkhdar. The authorities are still trying to confirm the identity of the third attacker.

With questions mounting about whether authorities had let the killers slip through their fingers, the police confirmed that Mr. Butt “was known” to them and to MI5, the British intelligence service. “However, there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly,” the police said in a statement. “The other named man, Rachid Redouane, was not known.”

Mr. Butt appeared briefly in a Channel 4 television documentary last year about extremists living in Britain. The film, which is also available on Netflix, featured a number of British Muslim men openly expressing their support for violence. In one scene, Mr. Butt stands in line with five other men in Regent’s Park in London as another man kneels in front of them unfurling an Islamic State flag.

In Barking, residents described a man more likely to share candy with the neighborhood children than spread violent jihad. Sarah Sekyejwe, who lives with her husband and children in the newly built row of houses next to the Elizabeth Fry Apartments, said Mr. Butt had moved to the street in 2014 and befriended the local children.

“My daughter says he’s the one who on Halloween would open the door and give them lots of sweets,” Ms. Sekyejwe recalled. “He was friendly to the kids. He would buy them ice cream when the ice cream van came. And in the summer he put out a table-tennis table and taught the kids how to play.”

Mr. Chigbo knew Mr. Butt only as Abs, the nickname everyone seemed to call him. He had recalled how “he would always be in a religious gown to his shins, with tracksuit bottoms and trainers underneath.” But on Monday Mr. Chigbo identified Mr. Butt in a photograph released by police as the same man.

The two men met barely a week after Mr. Chigbo moved into the complex three years ago. “He invited me and everyone to a barbecue in the block’s shared garden green area a week ago,” Mr. Chigbo recalled. “He’s a neighbor. I trusted him, we got on.”

Everyone is just, “shocked and upset,” he added.

Mr. Chigbo said small groups of three or four “Muslim guys” used to regularly visit Mr. Butt’s apartment. “I found them quite intimidating, actually,” he said. “They were always in religious robes and wearing red and white checkered scarves wrapped around their heads.”

Police have raided several locations in Barking in the past two days, including the Elizabeth Fry Apartments. Some of the sites raided on Monday were located near the Jabir bin Zayd Islamic Centre, a small facility that occupied several floors of a small office building. Mr. Butt reportedly attended the mosque.

On Monday, a sign outside the main prayer room used four pictographs to remind worshipers to wear long enough shirts so that their lower backs were not exposed during prostration.

Leaders of the mosque declined to comment and directed questions to their legal counsel. But they did issue a statement saying they “are deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack and “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families at this time of great heartbreak.”

“As a community, we denounce this abhorrent criminal act, for which there can never be any justification,” the statement said.

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