LONDON – One day after two people were killed in a terror-related stabbing attack On a bridge in central London, reports of courageous actions by members of the public to arrest the alleged perpetrator before he was shot dead by British police.
Scotland Yard identified the suspect as Usman Khan, 28, an extremist previously arrested for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange, the British Parliament and the US Embassy. After serving time in prison for his role in this plot, Khan was released in 2018 and equipped with an electronic tag to monitor his movements, according to a report at The Times (London). Khan was wearing a fake suicide belt when he was shot dead on Friday. The police feared it was real and that he was trying to detonate it.
The Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, according to Intel website, an extremist tracking group. Although the claim for ISIS cannot be confirmed, Rita Katz, US SITE director, said on Twitter tThe allegation demonstrates that the improved communication skills of the group once struck were disclosed within a day of the attack.
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One of two people killed in the London Bridge incident was named Saturday as Jack Merritt, 28. He was working at the conference center where the attack took place.
Merritt's father David said of his son on Twitter that he was "a beautiful spirit who always sided with the oppressed."
A woman who also died in the attack was not identified. Three others, one man and two women, remain in hospital with serious injuries.
While Khan's motives remain uncertain, investigators are treating the incident as terrorism and marks the third time in the race to the last four national votes in which Britain suffered a terrorist attack. A general election will be held on December 12.
On Saturday, investigators confirmed that Khan launched his attack inside Fishmongers' Hall, a historic site near the north end of London Bridge. There he was registered to attend a conference on the rehabilitation of former prisoners. It was organized by the University of Cambridge. Police believe that after Khan launched his attack inside the hall, he went to the bridge looking for more victims. They believe he acted alone.
However, according to the images circulated on social media, some of which were later confirmed in statements by police and witnesses, at some point when Khan arrived at London Bridge, he was attacked by passersby.
"This man was walking behind us across the London Bridge when the attack began," a Twitter user identified as George Roberts wrote on the social media platform.
"He ran through the traffic and jumped into the center partition to attack the attacker with several others. We ran away, but it looks like he disarmed him. Amazing bravery."
Stevie Hurst, a tour guide, was one of the people who helped contain the aggressor.
"Everyone was on him trying to wrap him on the floor," he told the BBC.
"We saw that the knife was still in his hand. I just put one foot in to try to kick him in the head. We were trying as hard as we could to try to dislodge the knife from his hand so he wouldn't do it. Harm anyone else." The guys who were there are heroes beyond belief. "
Pedestrian interventions led to praise from the police.
"(I) I want to thank the members of the public who helped by showing extraordinary courage by intervening or following the instructions that were given by the police in the area and in the area. This support from our audience helps us more than you might know," said the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
Dick said the attack lasted five minutes.
The video footage captured by the viewers seems to show a person – Khan, dressed in black – lying on the floor and fighting with various members of the audience. When British police arrive, Khan tries to get up and the cops push members of the public away before firing two shots. Several British media said a man took a five-foot-long narwhal prey at Fishmongers Hall to confront the attacker. Another, according to reports, used foam from a fire extinguisher to keep the suspect under control. After the police attack on Khan, he is seen lying motionless, an electronic tag visible on his ankle.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised the "breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran into danger without knowing what confronted him."
On Saturday, police searched an apartment building in Stafford, about 250 kilometers northwest of London, for clues. Khan is believed to have lived in the area after his release from prison. Britain's parole board said in a statement that it had no role in releasing Khan, which "appears to have been automatically released under license (as required by law)."
Security officials earlier this month had lowered Britain's level of terrorist threat from "serious" to "substantial," meaning that an attack is seen as "probable" rather than "highly probable." The assessment was made by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, an independent expert body that assesses intelligence, terrorist ability and intent.
It was based in part on a judgment that the threat of extremists returning from Syria to launch attacks on Britain had been slightly reduced.
British politician Jo Cox was assassinated by a far-right terrorist a week before Britain held its 2016 Brexit referendum on EU membership. The last general election in 2017 was held following a terrorist attack in London that killed 11 people. Britain's main political parties suspended the campaign in London by voting in less than two weeks, as a sign of respect for the dead and wounded in Friday's attack.