LONDON (AFP) – A man suspected of stabbing two people to death in a terror attack on London Bridge was an ex-prisoner convicted of terrorism offences and released last year, police said Saturday.
The knifeman, wearing a suspected hoax explosive device, was shot dead by police after Friday’s daylight assault that also saw bystanders intervene to try and disarm him.
Three more people were wounded in the stabbing spree that came less than two weeks before Britain votes in a general election, and revived memories of a three-man attack two years ago on London Bridge that killed eight.
Police named the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan, saying they were not actively seeking others in relation to the incident.
“This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences. He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence,” Neil Basu, head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said in a statement.
In 2012 Khan, from Stoke in central England, was jailed along with eight others in a terrorist group inspired by Al-Qaeda that had plotted to bomb targets including the London Stock Exchange.
He was sentenced to a minimum of eight years in prison and was also found guilty of making longer-term plans including taking part in “terrorist training.”
Basu said Khan had attended an event on Friday afternoon at Fishmonger’s Hall, a historic building on the north side of the bridge in the centre of the capital.
“We believe that the attack began inside before he left the building and proceeded onto London Bridge, where he was detained and subsequently confronted and shot by armed officers,” he said.
Footage filmed by eyewitnesses and shared on social media showed a scrum of people tackling the suspect on the ground before the police arrived.
One man, wearing a suit and tie, was seen carrying a large knife away from the group.
Tour guide Stevie Hurst, who ran from his car to the scene, told BBC radio that “everyone was just on top of him trying to bundle him to the ground”.
“I saw that the knife was still in his hand so I just put a foot in to try and kick him in the head: we were trying to do as much as we could to try and dislodge the knife,” he said.