NEWS
30/11/2019 07:42 GMT | Updated 30/11/2019 14:32 GMT

London Bridge Attack: Knifeman Who Killed Two Named As Convicted Terrorist Usman Khan

The 28-year-old from Staffordshire had been imprisoned in 2012 after plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

DANIEL SORABJI via Getty Images
Emergency services on the scene of the incident at London Bridge on Friday afternoon. 

The London Bridge knifeman who killed two in an attack on Friday has been named by police as convicted terrorist Usman Khan.

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said 28-year-old Khan, who was shot dead by police, had been living in the Staffordshire area and confirmed officers were searching an address in the county.

Police are “not actively seeking anyone else” over the attack, which left a man and a woman dead and three others – two women and a man – in hospital.

West Midlands Police/PA
Usman Khan

 In a statement, Basu said: “We are now in a position to confirm the identity of the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan, 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.”

Khan was wearing a fake suicide vest when he was killed on London Bridge on Friday afternoon in full view of horrified onlookers.

It was revealed late on Friday night that Khan had been ordered to serve at least eight years in prison in February 2012 for his part in an al Qaida-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

He, alongside two co-conspirators, originally received an indeterminate sentence for public protection but this was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term.

Prime minster Boris Johnson said on Friday night, in an interview given inside Downing Street before chairing an emergency Cobra meeting, that he had “long argued” for tougher sentences for “serious and violent criminals”. 

He said it was 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”.

Speaking before chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night, the PM 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”.

The Parole Board said it had no involvement in Khan’s release. 

In a statement, a spokesperson 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.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said “you can’t disaggregate terrorism and security from cuts made to resources of the police, of probation, the tools that judges have”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “The key thing is we need to support the police and security service.

“And of course politicians can’t use trite words and trite language after a terror attack. The key thing is to remind ourselves of two things.

“First is yesterday we saw the very best of Londoners, but also, secondly, we’ve got to make sure the right lessons are learnt.

“You can’t disaggregate terrorism and security from cuts made to resources of the police, of probation, the tools that judges have. It’s all linked.”

Security minister Brandon Lewis refused to say whether the attack showed a “failure” by authorities.

He repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of the incident, but said that more assessment was needed of the sentences given to violent criminals.

“We take what action we need to do and we believe is right under the advice of the police and look at all of the lessons learned from any case as quickly as we can to ensure people’s safety,” he told Sky News on Saturday.

When asked how Khan, who pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism in 2012 and was on licence from prison at the time of the incident, was able to arm himself and launch the attack, Lewis said it would be “inappropriate and dangerous” to speculate on the issue.

He added that although the UK terror threat level had been recently reduced from “severe” to “substantial”, there had been “no change in the posture and the work” of police and counter-terrorism forces.

At the time of the attack, Khan was attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation organised by University of Cambridge-associated Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall and “threatened to blow up” the building.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said he was “devastated” that an event organised by its Institute of Criminology was targeted in the attack.

He said: “I am devastated to learn that yesterday’s hateful attack on London Bridge may have been targeted at staff, students and alumni attending an event organised by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.

“We are in touch with the Metropolitan Police, and awaiting further details of the victims.

“We mourn the dead and we hope for a speedy recovery for the injured. Our thoughts are with all their families and friends.”

Basu confirmed that the attack was believed to have started inside the hall, before Khan “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,” he added. “Public safety is our top priority and we are enhancing police patrols in the City and across London.” 

Dylan Martinez / Reuters
People being allowed to pass a cordon near Borough Market in the wake of the incident on Friday afternoon. 

It was revealed on Saturday afternoon that Khan had written a letter to his lawyer whilst in prison, stating that he wanted to live his live as a “good citizen of Britain”. 

In the letter, obtained by ITV News, Khan 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”.

He was released on licence last year after serving half of his 16-year sentence.

In the letter, Khan said: “I would like to do such a course so I can prove to the authorities, my family and soicity (sic) in general that I don’t carry the views I had before my arrest.

“I can prove that at the time I was immature, and now I am much more mature and want to live my life as a good Muslim and also a good citizen of Britain.”

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.”

Thomas Gray, 24, was among a group of men who dragged Khan to the ground near Fishmongers’ Hall.The tour firm manager said he stamped on the terrorist’s wrist to try to make him release one of two large knives he was carrying.

 Gray told the PA news agency: “I was brought up on rugby and the rule is ‘one in, all in’. I did what any Londoner would do and tried to put a stop to it.”

“The members of the public who intervened have been widely praised, with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hailing their “breathtaking heroism” and Mr Johnson their “extraordinary bravery”.

The bridge was the scene of a terror attack in 2017 – also during a general election campaign – when eight victims were killed along with the three terrorists, who were also wearing fake suicide vests and armed with knives.