New Delhi: A Pakistani-origin terror convict has been identified as the assailant who stabbed two people to death near the London Bridge Friday, British media reported.
Usman Khan, 28, who was tackled by bystanders and shot dead by police, was reportedly found wearing a fake suicide vest.
Khan was convicted on terrorism charges, including an alleged conspiracy to attack the London Stock Exchange, in 2012. His hit-list, it is believed, included British Prime Minister and then London mayor Boris Johnson. At the time, the judge had called him a “serious jihadist”.
Sentenced to eight years, he was released on parole last December with an electronic monitoring tag on his body. He had since been living at Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England.
“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,” London Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said in a statement.
“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,” Basu added.
‘Too much leniency in the system’
Khan is believed to have spent some part of his teenage years in Pakistan with his mother. He did not finish schooling. After his mother was taken ill, he reportedly returned to the UK to preach radical Islam over the internet and quickly obtained a considerable following.
His family owns a plot of land in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which Khan planned to use for setting up a terror training camp and establish Sharia law in the region.
In 2012, Khan was one of nine people convicted of terror-related charges, including the London Stock Exchange conspiracy.
He was sentenced to indeterminate detention for “public protection” with a minimum jail term of eight years. This sentence would have allowed him to be kept in prison beyond the minimum term, but, in 2013, a court of appeals asked Khan to serve an eight-year jail term.
Commenting on Friday’s attack, Boris Johnson said the sentencing “shows too much leniency in the system”.
Addressing the government’s emergency committee Cobra, Johnson said, “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.”
On Friday, Khan was permitted to attend an event along with other convicts near London Bridge. It is here that he allegedly stabbed multiple people before being shot dead.
‘How to construct a pipe bomb’
A British national, Khan was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, also known as Stoke, a city in central England famous for its pottery industry.
He and his fellow al-Qaeda followers had been under the watch of British intelligence for a long time before their 2012 conviction. In one of his monitored conversations, he was allegedly heard discussing “how to construct a pipe bomb” from a “recipe” published in an al-Qaeda magazine.
He and his co-conspirators were also involved in funding a proposed madrassa where training on firearms was imparted. They had plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Stoke.