Europe on high alert following stabbing attacks in London and The Hague

Published By ITCT News Desk On : November 29, 2019
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A suspected terrorist who fatally stabbed two people was wrestled to the ground by witnesses and shot dead by police on crowded London Bridge on Friday.

At least two people were killed and three others were injured in the stabbing attack, which began at the historic Fishmongers’ Hall on the north side of the bridge.

The suspect was wearing an explosive device that later turned out to be fake, Britain’s top anti-terrorism police officer said.

It comes only three weeks after Britain lowered its national terrorism threat level to “substantial” from “severe”, its lowest level since 2014.

As counter-terrorism police began an investigation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “anybody involved in this crime and these attacks will be hunted down and will be brought to justice.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised “the breathtaking heroism” of members of the public who thwarted the suspect and “ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them”.

Statement by London mayor Sadiq Khan

He said those who intervened didn’t know that the device worn by the suspect was fake.

“They really are the best of us, another example of the bravery and heroism of ordinary Londoners,” Khan added.

Details of the victims were not immediately released by police.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police were called to the busy London Bridge area — the scene of another deadly terror attack in 2017 — amid reports of a stabbing.

Police has said that it will increase security patrols in the capital following the stabbing attack on Friday.

A detailed thread containing visuals from the attack site, uploaded by local witnesses and journalists, was created on the social media networking site Twitter by ITCT Deputy Director Faran Jeffery.

Neil Basu, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police, said: “A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers from the City of London Police and I can confirm that this suspect died at the scene.

“A number of other people received injuries during this incident. As soon as we can provide further updates on their condition, we will.

“As you would expect, due to the nature of the incident, we responded as though it was terrorist-related. I am now in a position to confirm that it has been declared a terrorist incident.”

London Bridge station, one of Britain’s busiest, was closed and evacuated.

Nearby buildings, including the nearby offices of News UK, home to The Times and Wall Street Journal, were placed on lockdown.

ITCT Executive Director Noor Dahri talked to ITCT Newsdesk about the attack in London, saying:

It’s purely a terrorist incident but police haven’t declared the identity of the suspect and his affiliation because the incident is yet under investigation. The pattern of the terrorist attack confirms that it’s most definitely an act of Islamist terrorism. The way he stabbed innocent people and wore a suicide belt even though a fake one, shows that he wanted to embrace martyrdom. We at ITCT are working very hard in order to fight against this monster ideology that has endangered the world especially the peaceful society of the Great Britain. I reassure my nation of the United Kingdom that we would not let them win the war against terrorism. We must be united to stop this ideology and we will succeed in rooting it out. Those innocent people who lost their lives in the attack, I pray for their souls and may they be rest in peace. Ameen.

 

UPDATE:

The London Bridge terror attacker who stabbed two people before being shot dead by police was allegedly known to authorities and had connections to Islamist terror groups.

According to The Times, the attacker had been released from jail a year ago after he agreed to wear an electronic tag and have his movements monitored. The paper said he was attending a Cambridge University conference on prisoner rehabilitation being held at Fishmongers’ Hall and “threatened to blow up” the building.

Front page of The Times

A security source confirmed he was known to police and had connections to Islamist terror groups.

The attacker was wearing his electronic tag at the time of the attack.

The Home Affairs correspondent of Sky News was filming with the counter-terror unit when they got the call to respond to London Bridge stabbing attack.

 

UPDATE:

The London Bridge terrorist has been identified as 28-year-old Usman Khan from Staffordshire, who was convicted in 2012 for terrorism offenses related to an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist plot and was released from prison in December 2018. The counter-terrorism police has raided his house in Staffordshire to search for more evidence.

Usman Khan, the 28 year old terrorist

Here Usman Khan is pictured with his terror accomplices

Another photo of Usman Khan with his original gang

 

Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University also released a statement on London Bridge attack.

UPDATE: 

On Saturday, the terror group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the London stabbing attack via its semi-official Amaq ‘News Agency’, claiming that the attack was perpetrated in response to the group’s calls for attacks targeting Global Coalition-member states. The claim was released on the app Tamtam as well as Telegram.

 

ITCT Deputy Director Faran Jeffery, on his Twitter timeline, said that this likely means that the attack was IS-inspired and not IS-directed.

Earlier on Saturday, British counter-terrorism officials said that the London Bridge stabber acted alone, but he had links to a British Islamist activist, Anjem Choudary, who courted ties to IS.

Pakistan origin Usman Khan, who was released from jail a year ago after serving just half of a 16-year sentence for plotting with eight others in 2010 to bomb London landmarks, was acting alone when he killed a man and a woman and wounded three other people, Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said Saturday.

The investigation is ongoing but no other suspects are being sought right now, she said.

“We must make 100 percent sure,” all leads are tracked down, she said. “Of course the investigation will continue, following all of the most pressing and obvious lines of inquiry.”

Khan reportedly had ties with Anjem Choudary, a British Islamist and a social and political activist convicted of inviting support from ISIS, Sky News reported. Two men linked to Choudary were named as the terrorists behind a similar attack on the London Bridge two years ago. He was also linked to the 2010 plot Khan was convicted for.

Dick brushed aside questions about whether the attack was an intelligence failure, given that it is the second attack there in as many years.

“This is not the time to be talking about that,” she said. “I’m focusing entirely on going forward and getting the investigation done and keeping London safe.”

“I’m sure there will be time for questions about who or if anyone knew anything about anything.”

Anjem was released from jail shortly before Usman Khan, who was Anjem’s student as well as his friend. Following Anjem’s release, ITCT Executive Director Noor Dahri had warned that Anjem is a security threat and should not be walking the streets of Britain as a free man.

Earlier on Saturday, details emerged about one of the victims of the London stabbing attack, who was named as 25-year-old University of Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt.

He was one of two people killed when 28-year-old Usman Khan launched the attack at a Cambridge University conference on prisoner rehabilitation.

Mr Merritt was described by his father on Twitter as a “beautiful spirit”.

A woman who died in the attack – declared by officers as a terrorist incident – has not yet been named. Three others were injured.

Mr Merritt, from Cambridge, was a course coordinator for Learning Together, a prisoners’ rehabilitation programme which was hosting the conference at Fishmongers’ Hall, at the north end of London Bridge.

Khan had taken part in the scheme while in prison and was one of dozens of people – including students and offenders – at the event.

David Merritt said on Twitter that his son Jack was a “a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog”.

“Jack spoke so highly of all the people he worked with & he loved his job,” he added.

Khan took part in Learning Together while at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire.

He appeared as a “case study” in a report by the initiative. Identified only as “Usman”, Khan was said to have given a speech at a fundraising dinner after being released from prison.

Usman Khan appeared as case study in a report by Learning Together

He was also given a “secure” laptop that complied with his licence conditions, to allow him to continue the writing and studying he began while in jail.

Khan contributed a poem to a separate brochure, in which he expressed gratitude for the laptop, adding: “I cannot send enough thanks to the entire Learning Together team and all those who continue to support this wonderful community.”

Khan had asked for help to be deradicalised while he was in prison, but none was forthcoming, his solicitor has claimed. Vajahat Sharif told the Guardian Usman Khan had come to realise that violent extremism was wrong and accepted his understanding of Islam was deficient. Khan was one of nine members of an al-Qaida-inspired terrorist group convicted in 2012 of plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp in Pakistan that was disrupted by MI5 and the police. He was also a supporter of al-Muhijaroun, the extremist group with which scores of terrorists were involved. However, Sharif said Khan became disillusioned with the group after his imprisonment, and that extremists may have targeted him to be “re-groomed” after release from jail, with devastating consequences.

He said Khan first mentioned wanting to be free of Islamist extremism after his conviction in 2012, and then repeatedly throughout his time in jail, last mentioning it in 2018 before his release.

“He requested intervention by a deradicaliser when he was in prison,” Sharif said. “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.”

Sharif said Khan, whom he last spoke to in March, was released to a bail hostel from where he had to report to a police station every day, had interactions with the probation service and had to wear a tag.

“In prison he begin to realise his Islamic thinking was not correct; he accepted that. He criticised the al-Qaida ideology and violent extremism. He did recognise that his Islamic understanding was incomplete. A lot of these characters pick and choose from different sermons, it’s like an echo chamber.”

Sharif said the policy for terrorist prisoners needed to change to boost efforts to turn them away from supporting ideologies that incite violence: “There is a flaw in the policy. You should have substantial ideological evaluation of these individuals before they are released on licence.”

Sharif said Khan appeared to be rehabilitated and was a model prisoner during his time in HMP Whitemoor: “He was having a go at Isis before his release. I’ve no idea what happened after his release, that is what is shocking. Maybe he was not ideologically robust enough to resist the radicalising groomers – I thought he was a reformed character.”

He said that when Khan was arrested in 2010 he supported al-Muhijaroun, but “by the end he was disillusioned with them”.

“His parents are thoroughly decent, hard-working people, first-generation migrants from Pakistan. His family were at a loss when he was arrested and charged.”

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said three victims remained in hospital following the attack – two in a stable condition and one with less serious injuries.

Police carried out searches at two addresses in Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent as part of the investigation.

Staffordshire Police’s Deputy Ch Con, Nick Baker, said it was “vitally important everyone remains alert but not alarmed”.

Police searched flats in Stafford. Credit: Reuters

The Met Police is urging anyone with information – particularly anyone who was at Fishmongers’ Hall – to contact them.

Members of the public were widely praised for intervening to tackle Khan to the ground before police arrived on the scene.

One man pictured in many newspapers, as he removed a knife from the scene, was a British Transport Police officer in plain clothes.

British Transport Police officer in plain clothes.

Chief Constable Paul Crowther, of British Transport Police, said his officer “bravely ran towards danger”.

“He, as well as other members of the public, should be extremely proud of what they did to stop this man on London Bridge,” he added.

One witness described how a man at the event at Fishmongers’ Hall grabbed a narwhal tusk – a long white horn that protrudes from the whale – that was on the wall, and went outside to confront the attacker.

Another person let off a fire extinguisher in the face of the attacker to try to keep him at bay.

Some of those who helped were believed to be former prisoners attending the conference.

On a visit to the attack site, the prime minister said the practice of cutting jail sentences in half and letting violent offenders out early “simply isn’t working”.

Flags on UK government buildings were flown at half-mast on Saturday as a mark of respect to all those affected by the attack.

The Queen said in a statement: “Prince Philip and I have been saddened to hear of the terror attacks at London Bridge.

“We send our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones and who have been affected by yesterday’s terrible violence.”

The latest attack comes after the UK’s terrorism threat level was downgraded on 4 November from “severe” to “substantial”, meaning that attacks were thought to be “likely” rather than “highly likely”.

The terror threat level is reviewed every six months by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which makes recommendations independent of government.

 

The Hague Stabbing Attack 

Shortly after the stabbing attack in London, another stabbing attack took place in the Dutch city of The Hague, where at least three people were injured in a shopping street.

Police in the Dutch city of The Hague said on Friday night that there had been a stabbing incident in a shopping street in the center of town, with several wounded.

Dutch media reported that the incident took place in or near a department store in the Grote Markt area. Because of Black Friday sales, there were unusually large crowds in that part of the city.

The Hudson’s Bay department store told the media that all they could confirm is that none of their staff members were involved.

According to the daily Algemeen Dagblad (AD) newspaper, bystanders reported seeing three people brought away on stretchers. The perpetrator was reportedly still being searched for. AD wrote that police were searching for a man between 45 and 50 years old in a gray jogging suit.

Later, The Hague police confirmed on Twitter that there were three victims, and called on witnesses to provide any video or photos they may have regarding the incident. They asked for patience in confirming more details of the attack, saying that the “complexity” of the situation meant it would take time.

As per last reports, the attacker was still on the run and the police still carrying out a search operation.

 

UPDATE: 

Police in the Dutch city of The Hague have arrested a man aged 35 over a stabbing attack on a shopping street on Friday, in which three teenagers were injured.

The suspect, who has no fixed abode, will be transferred to a police station for questioning, local police said.

Those hurt, two girls aged 15 and a boy of 13, did not know each other, and no motive has been reported.

Al three were released from hospital following treatment.

Police said earlier that they were investigating “several scenarios” and that it was “too early to speculate” about a possible terror motive.

The attack in The Hague came hours after a stabbing in London in which two people were killed and three injured before police shot dead the suspect.

 

 

 

This is a developing story. This story may be updated in case of new information. 

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