The London Bridge attack on Saturday, 04 June, followed the script the Manchester bombers had adopted on 22 May. In fact the script was similar to that of countless high-profile terror incidents throughout Europe, in which the attacks were carried out by people who had been known to the police. In many instances, warnings had been made about the perpetrators only to be ignored.
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people, including children, who had been attending an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. He and his family were well known to MI5 and the government, which had used them, along with many other Islamists in ops in Libya and Syria as media reports now reveal.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Abedi had travelled to Libya to meet with members of the Islamic State unit responsible for the November 2015 terror attack in Paris. Why he was allowed to return to the UK after this remains unexplained.
The Police have named three terrorists for the Saturday night London Bridge mayhem that had left seven dead and 18 in critical condition.
One of them is Khuram Shazad Butt (27) of Pakistani origin, who made frequent visits to his native land. It has now been admitted that he was known to MI5 and the police, a media report says
The second attacker named on Tuesday in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera was Youssef Zaghba. The Moroccan-born man was stopped by authorities in Bologna last year while attempting to get to Syria. The newspaper reports that Italian intelligence services informed British intelligence of this. Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command unit have since released Zaghba’s name while claiming he “was not a police or MI5 subject of interest.”
This confirms earlier reports that at least one suspect, Butt, who was previously referred to as “Abs” or “Abu”, a derivative of his Arabic name Abu Zeitoun, was reported to the police, who then protected him from investigation.
On Sunday evening the Guardian reported that Erica Gasparri, who lives in the same flat complex in Barking, said she confronted Butt in a local park two years ago because he was seeking to radicalise young children, including her son.
Gasparri took four photographs of Butt and gave them to the police. Their reaction was extraordinary. They “said the information had been passed on to Scotland Yard… They told me to delete the photos for my own safety, which I did, but then I heard nothing.”
A former friend of Butt also said he had contacted police in Barking, telling BBC’s Asian Network he had “phoned the anti-terror hotline.”
The same attacker appeared in a Channel 4 documentary last year about British jihadis, in which he is involved in a confrontation with police after he holds up an ISIS flag in Regent’s Park. The documentary states that he and others were detained for an hour but released without charge after officers supposedly failed to find the flag!
Perhaps the most devastating account is in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, which reports that counter-terrorism officers secretly recorded an ISIS-inspired terror cell in Barking only last month discussing how to carry out a van and knife attack in London.
The Telegraph writes that one of those investigated boasts that he has radicalised more than a dozen “students” in Barking “wanting to martyr themselves.” He details how an attack would “use a car as a weapon,” driving at pedestrians and then getting out to attack others with knives: “YouTube videos all make it properly easy to do.”
The Mail reports that the London Bridge attack suspect Butt was a keen gym user.
One of the plotters also talked about “getting an automatic [vehicle] so the boys can drive it.” A neighbour of Butt said he had asked him about where he could hire an automatic transmission van.
On Sunday, police arrested 12 people, mainly residents in the Elizabeth Fry tower block in Barking where Butt lived. The Mail reports that during the raid a police detective was photographed with notes in his possession that were on display, relating to Saturday’s terror attack—suggesting of one of those involved: “He had been interrogated last year for his Islamic views, his house was searched, passport was taken + he had to sign on.”
The list of those involved in terrorist outrages known to the police and secret services gets longer: Mohammed Sidique Khan, who led the July 7, 2005 bombings in London; Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013; Khalid Masood, who in March carried out a similar vehicle/knife attack on Westminster Bridge; and Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi. In all cases, the official explanation is that they were not considered to be a real threat.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said that, in the case of Butt, there had been no evidence of “attack planning” and he had been deemed a “low priority.”
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Inevitably, [even] with a large database and some very good knowledge, on occasion somebody will, as my predecessor predicted, get through and be successful, and on occasion those people may have been known to the agencies before.”
Prime Minister Theresa May stressed that Islamist terrorism “cannot be defeated by military intervention alone,” or by “the maintenance of a permanent defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skilful its leaders and practitioners.” She demanded stepped-up action against suspected terrorists—above all by strengthening the police and security services. But her resolve to fight terrorism cannot conceal the fact that Manchester bomber Abedi has been exposed as one of a family of Libyan Islamists who were protected assets of MI5.
Indeed, the only real way of lessening the terror threat would involve closing down the Islamist networks sponsored and protected by the British state to be deployed in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. For May, this is a particularly explosive question. She was home secretary in the government of Prime Minister David Cameron when, in 2011, the Abedis and many others were released from the control order restrictions on them so they could take part in fighting in Libya.
Writing in the Sun, Douglas Murray called for an end to “large-scale Islamic immigration,” the “permanent closure” of mosques “caught hosting anti-British views,” “imprisonment of everyone known to have connections with extreme organisations” and the deportation of dual nationals “caught associating with designated groups.” The Mail editorialised, “We need action—now. There is a war being fought on our streets and it’s time to deploy all the weapons at our disposal.”
—by Robert Stevens and Chris Marsden, WSWS