Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

London

A Syrian refugee has been named as the first victim of the towerblock inferno in London as officials expected the death toll in the tragedy to rise dramatically.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali has been identified on Friday as a victim in the fire. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.

Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday.

London police said there is nothing to suggest that fire was started deliberately.

Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.

“He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.

“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years.

“When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 30 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”

“The investigation will look in into what criminal offenses may have been committed,” he added.

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the tower, while 11 others have been located but cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure.

Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building works were properly done.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had arrived at a London site where community groups have gathered supplies for those affected by the tower fire disaster.

The queen is meeting with volunteers Friday and she has expressed her sympathies to families of victims. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited on Friday those injured in the fire after facing fierce criticism for attending the site but not meeting with residents.

She visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition.

May pledged on Thursday to hold a public inquiry into a fire that engulfed the building, but she has been widely attacked for not meeting with residents, sending ministers to do so instead.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.

A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside.

Authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

Britain’s government has ordered checks at towers going through similar renovations, and some London neighborhood authorities said Thursday they’d do extra fire-safety assessments at public housing high-rises.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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London Fire: At Least 6 Dead After Blaze Engulfs Apartment Tower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least at least 64 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that six people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By the early afternoon, more than 200 firefighters from all over London were continuing to extinguish the remnants of the fire and to search for survivors, long after the blaze broke out at 1:16 a.m. in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. Constructed in 1974, the building has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors.

“In my 29 years of being a
firefighter, I have never,
ever seen anything of this scale.”DANY COTTON, THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S FIRE BRIGADE

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Commissioner Cotton said the precise number of deaths had not yet been determined because of “the size and complexity of this building.”

Adib Abbas was visiting a cousin who lives on the ninth floor of the building. He said he was preparing a meal before their daily Ramadan fast when he smelled gas and then heard people in the floors below shouting.

“I opened the door and everyone was shouting ‘fire, fire, get back in,’” Mr. Abbas said. “Then a neighbor called my cousin and told us to wait for the Fire Brigade. We were terrified and thought about trying to get out the window. There were people dangling out the windows trying to get out.”

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Local residents watching the fire. CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My cousin had his kids with him, and they started crying and screaming when the smoke started coming in. There was no way out, we were stuck, and no one was coming to help us,” Mr. Abbas added. “I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like ages before we got out. I could see people lying on the floor as we were being pulled out. I think a lot of people died. It’s a nightmare.”

The Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top of the 24-story building; aerial photographs showed the charred, blackened and still smoking ruins looming over West London.

Forty fire trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 patients to six hospitals. Twenty were in critical condition.

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Photo

Columns of thick smoke. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 people to six hospitals. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said the process of tracking everyone who was unaccounted for was “very complex,” and urged survivors to call a hotline set up to establish the condition of all the building’s residents. He said the Fire Brigade had arrived within six minutes of being called.

Alison Evans, who lives near Grenfell Tower, woke to the sounds of sirens and helicopters and watched the fire engulf the building from a nearby street.

“It just kept burning and burning for hours and for hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help,” she said. “It was hell to watch. We were watching people dying. I can’t imagine how many people must have died in there.”

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Photo

Firefighters training hoses on the building. A residents’ association has regularly complained in its newsletter of fire hazards in the building and what it called inattention by the landlord.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

At dawn, the blaze still burned brightly against the pale sky, with columns of thick black smoke ascending. Ashes filled the air, and small explosions could be heard as helicopters flew overhead. Firefighters on the ground trained hoses on the building. The police were extending their cordon around the building and pushing people back, apparently fearing that the tower could collapse.

Abdul Kadiri, who stood with his family watching the fire, said he had heard sirens about 1:45 a.m.

“My friend lives with his family on the 15th floor of the building,” he said. “I called my friend, and he had no idea what was going on. I told him to grab his family and get out, and he hung up.”

When the friend got out safely, Mr. Kadiri said, “he told me there was smoke everywhere, and he got out with the help of the firefighters who were on the fourth floor. He was a real mess and didn’t say much.

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Photo

A man inside the burning building. The London Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top floor. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

“He was just so happy to be out of there,” Mr. Kadri said. “He was crying thinking of all the children that would have been asleep on the higher floors and probably weren’t able to get out.”

Another resident, Hanan Wahabi, said she had spoken by phone to her brother, who was on the 21st floor, and urged him to leave. But he said firefighters had told him to stay in place until he could be rescued. Since then, she had been unable to reach him.

“I have done a lot of crying,” she said.

Meriam Antur was asleep on the 19th floor with her two children, her husband away, when she woke to the sound of sirens, followed by shouting in the corridors. “I panicked and called my husband while trying to put on my hijab so I could go and see what was happening,” she said. “I couldn’t get through, so I called my cousin, who told me to get out.”

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A resident in a nearby building. More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain the blaze. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

When she opened her apartment door, Ms. Antur said, “my neighbors were running back and forth in the corridor shouting at each other. I didn’t understand until my friend came in and said we had to wait for the firemen and couldn’t go down.”

“I was so scared. It took so long, my children were crying, and I’m pregnant,” she said, clasping her belly. “I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”

Paramedics led Ms. Antur and her children away to be checked at a hospital. In the background, a woman ran barefoot down the street in her nightgown, screaming the name Elsa. Ms. Antur’s cousin said it was a neighbor who could not find her 6-year-old daughter.

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Firefighters in a children’s playground covered in debris from the burning tower nearby. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

In the early hours of the fire, witnesses said they could see lights — thought to be flashlights — blinking at the top of the building.

Bruce Evans, who lives nearby, said that a family of four he is friendly with — including a baby — had escaped from the ninth floor via the main stairs.

“The mum heard screaming and shouting, looked out of the window and saw flames. She said she has shouted ‘Oh my God, it’s fire! Let’s go,’” he said. “They are at the hospital now having checks on the baby.”

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At least 40 fire engines were at the scene. CreditToby Melville/Reuters

Mr. Evans said that he was told that the fire had started on the fourth floor and that the occupant of the apartment in which it started had alerted other residents on that floor.

A residents’ association, the Grenfell Action Group, had been warning for years about fire hazards in the building and the surrounding area, and what it called inattention by the landlord.

According to the Get West London website, the Grenfell Tower block completed a renovation costing 10 million pounds, or $12.8 million, in May 2016. The upgrade — which included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system — was financed by the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as part of a multimillion-dollar improvement project in the area.

In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”

The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, said in a statement: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.” He did not address the complaints raised by the Grenfell Action Group.

Rydon, the construction company that carried out the renovation, said in a statement that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company added.

8COMMENTS

At the time the renovation was announced, in 2014, the management organization said in a statement that “residents of the tower have long had to put up with a substandard heating system and poor insulation,” and that a new heating system would allow them to set the temperatures in their units.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of 32 boroughs that make up London, along with the City, London’s financial district.

Prime Minister May Forced To Form New Government With Help From DUP Party

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to form a government that will provide “certainty” and guide the country through Brexit, just hours after voters delivered her party a huge blow at the polls.

May, who visited Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II Friday, said she would work in particular with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which she described as her “friends and allies”

UK Election 2017 results

326 Seats needed for majorityData:PA
Party Seats Change
Conservative 318 -12
Labour 261 +31
Scottish National Party 35 -19
Other 35
649/650 Seats declared*Scotland
Promising to move towards a Brexit deal, enabling Britain to exit the European Union, May said the new government would “be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”
Brexit talks — due to start in 10 day’s time — may be delayed and the Prime Minister’s personal authority undermined by the shock result, which left the Conservatives short of a working majority by just eight seats.
It’s an embarrassing turn for May who called the snap election three years earlier than required by law, convinced by opinion polls that seemed to place her in a strong position.
In a night of high drama across the UK, her party shed seats to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which surpassed expectations.

‘Catastrophic’ results

For May, who called the snap election in April, the failure to gain a large majority already has critics sniping.
George Osborne, the former finance minister who stepped down at the election, told ITV that the results were “catastrophic” for his party. Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP, said May would have to consider her position.
Meawhile, Corbyn said the early results showed May had lost her mandate and called for her to resign.
“People have said they have had quite enough of austerity politics,” he said, repeating his campaign promises to push for better funding for health and education.

Upsets elsewhere

After the result was declared in her constituency of Maidenhead, May gave a faltering speech. “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” she said, suggesting she would attempt to form a government even if her party loses its majority.
There were upsets elsewhere in the UK: In Scotland. the Scottish National Party was on course for significant losses. The former leader, Alex Salmond, lost his seat, as the Conservative Party made some rare gains in Scotland.

Theresa May: What you need to know

Theresa May: What you need to know
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat Party did not make its hoped-for inroads. Former leader Nick Clegg, a former Deputy Prime Minister, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat. Tim Farron, the current leader, retained his seat with only a narrow majority.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, one of May’s closest allies, barely held onto her seat of Hastings and Rye, after a recount put her just over 300 votes ahead of the Labour candidate.
May experienced a gradual slide during the campaign period, in which a wide gap between the Conservatives and Labour narrowed.
Predictions of Conservative success became more modest as the party’s campaign faltered following a series of missteps.
May was criticized for making a number of U-turns on social welfare and she came under fire for a controversial proposal on who should pay for the cost of care for the elderly, a policy that became known as the “dementia tax.”
Her opponents also took issue with her refusal to take part in a televised debate with other party leaders.
The Prime Minister called what she thought would be a Brexit-focused election, but the issue was quickly overshadowed by security as two deadly terror attacks, in Manchester and London, struck during the campaign period.
The attacks only put May under more scrutiny for national security decisions she made during her tenure as Home Secretary, a role she held for six years in the government of her predecessor, David Cameron.
The attacks triggered a heated debate on whether the police are well-enough resourced to deal with terror threats. Police numbers across the UK were cut by 20,000 under May’s watch as Home Secretary.

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

By Kate Holton and David Milliken | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”.

The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the U.S. dollar. .

It was an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago.

But her lead had gradually shrunk over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major social care proposal, opted not to take part in a high-profile TV debate with her opponents, and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.

“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” George Osborne, who was the Conservative finance minister from 2010 to 2016 when he was sacked by May, said on ITV.

Analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll predicted May’s predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority. But as the night wore on and the actual results came in from constituencies, it became clear he had in fact won a majority, albeit a small one of just 12 seats.

That outcome was a triumph for Cameron though, because he had been predicted to fall well short. For May, who went into the campaign expecting to win a landslide, even a narrow win later in the night would leave her badly damaged.

Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict who will form the next government.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they (the Conservatives) would put together the coalition to remain in office,” said Osborne.

“But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition, so it’s on a real knife edge.”

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the center-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s Brexit referendum.

If she fails to win a majority, that could call into question her position as Conservative leader and might mean a second election in Britain this year.

If Corbyn’s Labour does take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritized control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5 percent of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce, William James, Alistair Smout, Paddy Graham, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

London Mayor (Rightfully) Suggest (Trump The Ignorant) Not Be Allowed In The UK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN AND TIME NEWS AGENCIES)

London’s Mayor Suggests Cancelling President Trump’s State Visit After His Criticisms on Twitter

Updated: 7:49 AM ET | Originally published: Jun 05, 2017

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should not be welcomed to the U.K. because his policies are incompatible with British values, as a planned state visit approaches. The mayor’s comments follow criticism from Trump on Twitter over Khan’s response to a terror attack Saturday that left seven people dead in the British capital.

Speaking to Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday, Khan said the U.S. President was wrong about “many things.” According to the Guardian, he added that he doesn’t think Trump should be welcomed to the country.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the President of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said.

President Trump criticized Khan on Sunday after the mayor told Londoners that an increased police presence on the streets was “no cause for alarm.” Trump misleadingly suggested that Khan was downplaying the act of terrorism, which saw a van crash into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men exited the vehicle and attacked several people in nearby Borough Market.

After the mayor’s office contextualized Khan’s remarks, Trump went on the offensive again, tweeting on Monday that the explanation was a “pathetic excuse.”

Read more: President Trump’s Attack on London Mayor

Prime Minister Theresa May told British tabloid The Sun on Tuesday that even though Trump was “wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan” his official state visit to Britain will still go ahead. “The relationship with America is our deepest and most important defence and security relationship” she told the newspaper. “Having said that, I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge.”

Trump’s attack on Khan has drawn sharp criticism not in the U.K. but also from American officials. The acting U.S. Ambassador in London, Lewis Lukens, issued a statement on Twitter offering praise and support for Khan: “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack,” it read.

I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack. – LLukens 3/3 https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/871270734835965952 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,400 communities across the country, also sent Khan an unequivocal message of support.

“[Khan] has risen above this crisis of death and destruction, as mayors continue to do, to alleviate fear, to bring comfort to his people of London and to give support to the first responders who continue to protect, defend and provide emergency care to his people of London,” the statement read. “Thank you, Mayor Khan, for your leadership during this crisis.”

[Guardian]

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.

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.”

6 Innocent People Murdered In London Terrorist Attack: Police Shoot Dead 3 Attackers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) At least 6 people have been killed in a terror attack in central London, with police shooting three suspected assailants dead.

According to a statement by Metropolitan police assistant commissioner for specialist operations, Mark Rowley, the attack began late Saturday night, when a vehicle stuck pedestrians on London Bridge.
The suspects then left the vehicle and “a number of people were stabbed, including an on-duty British Transport Police officer who was responding to the incident at London Bridge,” said Rowley. The officer received serious but not life-threatening injuries.
“Armed officers responded very quickly and bravely, confronting three male suspects who were shot and killed in Borough Market,” said Rowley. “The suspects had been confronted and shot by the police within eight minutes of the first call. The suspects were wearing what looked like explosive vests but these were later established to be hoaxes.”
Eyewitnesses reported panic as the incidents unfolded in the vicinity of a major transport hub and in an area packed with restaurants and bars. The London Ambulance Service said at least 30 people were taken to five hospitals.
The attacks came days before a general election and two weeks after 22 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. It was the third terrorist attack to strike the United Kingdom this year, after a man drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said authorities were dealing with a “terrible incident” and London’s Metropolitan Police Service said incidents at London Bridge and nearby Borough Market were being treated as terrorism. The investigation is now being led by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it was “deliberate and cowardly attack” on Londoners enjoying a Saturday night out.

Latest developments

Metropolitan Police statement: Six people have died across two locations, in addition to the three attackers shot dead by police. A reported third incident at Vauxhall, a few miles west, was not connected.
• London Ambulance Service statement: 30 victims have been taken to five hospitals across London. A number of others were treated for less serious injuries at the scene. More than 80 medics have responded to the incident, including ambulance crews, advanced paramedics, specialist response teams and an advanced trauma team from London’s air ambulance.
• Vehicle attack on London Bridge: Eyewitnesses said a van drove at speed across London Bridge from the north side, knocking over several pedestrians. London’s Metropolitan Police said they first responded to the bridge at 10:08 p.m. (5:08 p.m. ET).
• Stabbings at Borough Market: A man with a knife entered two restaurants at nearby Borough Market, just south of the bridge, stabbing two people in one restaurant and one person in the other, other eyewitnesses told CNN.
London Bridge terror attacks
  • Live updates: Six dead in attack
  • Horrified diners hid from man with knife
British Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Downing Street: In a statement, she said a “terrible incident” in London was being treated as “potential act of terrorism.” She planned to chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee Sunday.
• US President Donald Trump reacts: The President was briefed by the national security team, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. Trump tweeted: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

Terrorist Attacks In City Center Of London England

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Van and knife attack leaves trail of casualties in ‘terrorist incidents’ on London Bridge and in nearby market

London police respond to ‘incident’ on London Bridge
Police respond to an ‘incident’ on London Bridge after a van reported to hit pedestrians on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 3 at 8:19 PM
A van driving at high speed mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants, witnesses said in an attack that police described as terrorism.Police said at least one person had been killed. Witnesses described a trail of serious injuries on the bridge and in the adjacent Borough Market.

The attacks set off scenes of panic in the heart of London on a cool June evening as the city’s streets were filled with people heading home from dinner or out for a drink. In packed pubs — normally scenes of Saturday night revelry and merriment — patrons threw chairs at the attackers as the assailants used long knives to slash their way through crowds.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the attacks were being treated as “terrorist incidents.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned to 10 Downing Street for emergency meetings with security officials, had earlier described the “terrible incidents” as “a potential act of terrorism.”

As of 2 a.m. Sunday, it was unclear whether the assailants remained at large, but police urged the public to remain vigilant and to avoid the area.

If confirmed as terrorism, Saturday would mark the third major attack in Britain in as many months. The evening’s carnage carried grim echoes of a similar incident in late March, when a driver swerved into pedestrians on another Thames crossing, killing four, and then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

May had lowered the nation’s threat level only days ago — from “critical” to “severe” — after having raised it following a bombing last month at a Manchester pop music concert that killed 22.

But even with the lower threat level, the nation’s intelligence services had continued to judge that another attack was likely.

Witnesses reported that a white van was traveling fast — approximately 50 miles per hour — when it mounted the sidewalk and plowed into a group of people crossing the Thames River on foot around 10:30 p.m..

Witnesses speaking to the BBC said the van collided with a guardrail, and three occupants got out. They then began attacking people on the bridge with knives before making their way to Borough Market.

London’s Metropolitan Police later confirmed an attack at Borough Market, an area packed with popular restaurants that is located just south of the bridge. Police said that armed officers were responding to the scene, that there were reports of injuries from knife attacks and that shots had been fired — though it was unclear by who.

“I heard many gunshots and I heard people running away,” said Joe Dillon, 23, who was near London Bridge when the incident occurred. “Police officers were shouting: ‘Get out of here, you need to go!’ I heard at least eight rounds of gunshots, but I’m not sure who was shooting. When I arrived a second after I had heard the screams and the shots, I saw five or six officers running toward the van.”

Cell phone video from a restaurant in the market showed people diving under tables amid the sound of breaking glass as officers rushed in and ordered patrons to stay down.

Tamara Alcolea, 24, who works as a bartender in a pub called Southwark Rooms, which is near the bridge, said the first indication that something was wrong was when she heard that someone had been stabbed. in the proximity of London Bridge.

“Then we heard gunshots and people started to hide beneath the tables,” Alcolea said. “We locked ourselves in the office. From the window, I could see an injured person being treated by emergency personnel. Then the police came in and told us to run. Everyone was panicking.”

As Alcolea recounted her story, she saw two friends who she had lost track of during the melee. She cried and hugged them as they reunited outside a police cordon.

Chris Jacobs, 52, and his wife Kavita Jacobs, 49, were woken up by police officers banging on their door on the third floor of an apartment building at Borough Market.

“I heard gunshots as we left the building,” said Chris Jacobs, who stood next to a petrol station outside the cordon, with no shoes on and holding his dog.

Alex Shellum, an eyewitness, told the BBC he was at the Mudlark pub in the London Bridge area when at around 10 p.m. “a woman probably in her early 20s staggered into the pub and she was bleeding heavily from the neck and from her mouth. It appeared to myself and my friends that her throat had been cut.”

Police said they were responding to a third potential incident in the Vauxhall area, which is about a mile from the scene of the first two incidents. The subway station at Vauxhall was briefly closed, but later reopened. Police later clarified that the Vauxhall incident was unrelated.

Dozens of police cars sped to London Bridge, with helicopters hovering overhead. Police closed the bridge and urged the public to avoid the area.

The incident caused chaos in the heart of London in an area normally bustling on a Saturday night. Pedestrians near the bridge said they were ordered by police to run. Video footage showed people fleeing in a panic. Two hours after the incidents began, police were still widening cordons and pushing bystanders further back from the scenes.

Members of the public were escorted away from the bridge with hands on their heads.

British leaders scrambled to respond to the attacks.

May, who had been out campaigning ahead of an election slated for Thursday, returned to Downing Street and was being briefed by security officials.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter: “Brutal and shocking incidents reported in London. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”

President Trump was briefed on the incident, and immediately took to Twitter to say: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

After taking criticism online for trying to use the attack to advance a policy goal that is now under review in the courts, he sent a follow up tweet minutes later: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement thanking emergency responders, and condemning “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night.’

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

UK PM May’s lead narrows after Manchester attack placing landslide win in doubt

By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden | LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s lead over the opposition Labour Party has narrowed sharply, according to five opinion polls published since the Manchester attack, suggesting she might not win the landslide predicted just a month ago.

Four opinion polls published on Saturday showed that May’s lead had contracted by a range of 2 to 6 percentage points, indicating the June 8 election could be much tighter than initially thought when she called the snap vote.

“Theresa May is certainly the overwhelming favorite to win but crucially we are in the territory now where how well she is going to win is uncertain,” John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Reuters.

“She is no longer guaranteed to get the landslide majority that she was originally setting out to get,” said Curtice, a leading psephologist who is president of the British Polling Council.

May called the snap election in a bid to strengthen her hand in negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union, to win more time to deal with the impact of the divorce and to strengthen her grip on the Conservative Party.

But if she does not handsomely beat the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority could be undermined just as she enters formal Brexit negotiations.

Sterling on Friday suffered its steepest fall since January after a YouGov opinion poll showed the lead of May’s Conservatives over Labour was down to 5 percentage points.

LANDSLIDE IN QUESTION?

When May stunned politicians and financial markets on April 18 with her call for a snap election, opinion polls suggested she could emulate Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 majority of 144 seats or even threaten Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour majority of 179 seats.

But polls had shown May’s rating slipping over the past month and they fell sharply after she set out plans on May 18 to make some elderly people pay a greater share of their care costs, a proposal dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ by opponents.

As her lead shrank, May was forced to backtrack on the policy at an appearance before the media on Monday at which she appeared flustered and irritated when taking questions from reporters.

Campaigning was suspended for several days after the Manchester attack but resumed on Friday.

Polls since the attack showed little evidence that May – who as a former interior minister oversaw the police and domestic intelligence agency – had gained support.

“The campaign has changed,” Johnny Heald, managing director of ORB International, said. “Expect to see a forensic focus on Brexit and security over the next two weeks.”

Opinium said May’s lead had slipped to 10 percentage points, down from 13 points the week before and from 19 percentage points on April 19. Its online survey of 2,002 people was carried out between May 23 and 24.

ComRes said the lead of May’s Conservatives had fallen to 12 percentage points in an online poll of 2,024 carried out May 24-26, from 18 percentage points in a comparable poll on May 13.

ORB said May’s lead had halved to 6 percentage points, according to an online poll carried out May 24-25.

A YouGov survey of 2,003 people between May 25-26 showed May’s lead had narrowed 7 percentage points from nine a week ago.

The polls painted a complicated picture of public opinion, with Britons’ current voting intentions being influenced by both the deadly Manchester attack and May’s unpopular social care proposals.

Conservative election strategist, Lynton Crosby, has ordered a return to May’s main message: that only Theresa May can be trusted to negotiate Brexit, The Sunday Times reported.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Gareth Jones and Michael Holden)

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