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Islamic Militancy

UK police name third London attacker amid questions how terror plotters kept under radar

The attack, the third in Britain in three months, has raised questions over the government’s ability to protect Britain following cuts to police numbers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 9:54pm

Police on Tuesday named the third attacker in the weekend terror assault in London amid mounting anger, two days before an election, over how the jihadist killers had apparently escaped surveillance.

With flags at half-mast, the nation fell silent at 11:00am to remember the seven killed and dozens injured on Saturday night - a mourning ritual now grimly familiar after two previous terror attacks in less than three months.

Police identified the third attacker as Youssef Zaghba, a 22-year-old Italian of Moroccan descent, a day after naming his accomplices as Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a Pakistan-born Briton, and Rachid Redouane, 30, a self-described Moroccan-Libyan dual national.

Police also said they had made an overnight raid in east London and arrested a 27-year-old man early Tuesday. Twelve people arrested earlier have since been released without charge.

Butt “was known to the police and MI5” but there was no intelligence to suggest the attack was being planned, the Metropolitan Police said. Zaghba was “not a police or MI5 subject of interest,” it added, an assertion that seemed to conflict with accounts in the Italian media.

Criticism immediately flared about how Butt was able to carry out the attack.

He had notably featured in a Channel 4 TV documentary entitled The Jihadis Next Door and, according to the British media, numerous people alarmed by his views had gone to the authorities.

According to Italian media reports, Zaghba’s status as a potential militant was notified to the British and Moroccan secret services.

The London attack follows the May 22 suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena by Salman Abedi -killing 22 people including children - who was also known to British intelligence services.

“Why didn’t they stop TV jihadi?” The Sun asked on its front page, while The Daily Mirror asked: “So how the hell did he slip through?” The conservative Daily Telegraph added: “It is astonishing that people who pose such a danger to life and limb should be able to parade their foul ideology on TV with no consequences.”

In Saturday’s attack, three men, wearing fake suicide vests, mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge in a van, before slashing and stabbing revellers in Borough Market, a bustling district of late-night bars and restaurants.

Praise has been heaped upon the police for their swift response and bravery. An armed unit killed the trio with 50 shots within eight minutes of the alarm being raised.

The Italian reports said Zaghba was intercepted at the Bologna airport last year as he was about to board a plane for Turkey, apparently with the intention of joining Islamic State militants in Syria.

He was detained with only a small backpack, his passport and a one-way ticket to Istanbul.

Police reportedly found IS propoganda videos on his cellphone, but after an investigation, they failed to find sufficient evidence of links to terrorism to prosecute him.

As a result he was released, and being a holder of an Italian passport he was not liable for expulsion under the kind of administrative order Italy routinely uses against suspected Islamist militants from Morocco and Tunisia.

According to the reports, the British and Moroccan secret services were notified of Zaghba’s status as a potential militant.

But British police said Zaghba was “not a police or MI5 subject of interest”.

According to the reports, Zaghba was born in Fez, Morocco, and never lived for any extended period in Italy.

His mother told police last year that he had asked her for money to travel to Rome before he left on his abortive trip to Syria.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press