A convicted terrorist has been named as one of two inmates believed to have carried out a “cowardly and vicious” attack on prison staff at a maximum security jail.
Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officers are investigating after an officer was attacked from behind on Thursday by two prisoners wearing fake suicide belts and armed with improvised bladed weapons.
One of the suspects at the 458-capacity HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire has been named in reports as convicted terrorist Brusthom Ziamani, 24, while the second is said to be a Muslim convert jailed for a violent offence.
Ziamani, a follower of radical preacher Anjem Choudary, 52, was found guilty of planning a terror attack in 2015 over a plot to behead a British soldier.
The prison officer attacked from behind suffered stab and slash wounds to the head, chest and face, while four other officers received stab injuries as they stepped in to help.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said: “I have received a full briefing on this cowardly and vicious attack and there is no doubt in my mind that but for the bravery of staff then this morning we could have been talking about a death of a prison officer at Whitemoor Prison.
“This was an extremely serious attack on hard-working staff.”
A Prison Service spokesperson said the incident was “quickly resolved by brave staff”, adding: “We do not tolerate assaults on our hard-working officers and will push for the strongest possible punishment.”
The Metropolitan Police said it was “deemed appropriate” for the investigation to be carried out by counter-terrorism officers.
A spokesman said: “However, we must stress that at this early stage of the investigation we are keeping an open mind with regards to any motives, and inquiries to establish the full circumstances of the incident are ongoing.”
Ziamani was 19 when he was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 22 years in prison, reduced to 19 on appeal, after he was arrested while carrying a 12in (30.5cm) knife and a hammer in a rucksack.
The court was told that he had researched the location of Army cadet bases in the south-east of the capital.
Earlier, he had shown his ex-girlfriend weapons, described Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebolajo as a “legend” and told her he would “kill soldiers”.