Boris Johnson has been criticised for trying to make “political mileage” from the attack in London that saw a known and convicted tag-wearing terrorist kill two people in the capital.
Usman Khan, 28, stabbed a man and a woman to death and injured three others in the knife attack in London Bridge, before he was shot dead by armed police.
Political parties immediately suspended their general election campaigns following the incident– the first deadly terror attack in the UK since 2017 – with all leaders paying tribute to the victims, the emergency services and the public for their response.
‘PM’s bid for political mileage from the incident’
However, Johnson was seen as trying to capitalise politically from the attack by claiming he had “long argued” 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”.
The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner criticised the timing and politicking of Johnson’s comments made in the immediate aftermath of the attack and before Friday evening’s meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, known as Cobra; while the Guardian reported that “Johnson made an apparent bid for political mileage from the incident”.
Convicted terrorist planned to bomb Johnson’s home
Police are investigating how Usman Khan was able to carry out the deadly knife attack given he was known to authorities and wearing an electronic tracking tag to monitor his movements.
Khan was released from jail last year after being convicted for his involvement in plots to bomb the London Stock Exchange, the American embassy and then Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s home, as well as for plans to set up a terrorist training camp in Kashmir.
Khan had received an indeterminate sentence with a minimum eight year term when he was convicted along with eight others in February 2012. The Court of Appeal changed this to a 16-year fixed term sentence and extended period on licence in 2013. He was automatically released on licence last year despite the sentencing judge having warned that Khan was a “serious jihadist” who should remain detained while he continued to pose a threat to society.
On Friday, Khan attended a criminal justice conference on prisoner rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall, organised by Cambridge University who had invited him. Khan was wearing a fake suicide-bomber’s vest and threatened to “blow up” the building before launching his knife attack. His rampage went on to London Bridge where he was chased and disarmed by members of the public before he was shot dead by police in front of horrified onlookers.
Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick said in a statement released on Friday night, that the attack had lasted five minutes.
Terrorist linked to Choudary
Sky News have reported that Khan had links to Anjem Choudary, the co-founder of al-Muhajiroun and was one of number of terrorists connected to Choudary’s banned group who were released from jail over a six month period from autumn 2018.
Chris Phillips, former head of the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office, told the BBC of his concerns about monitoring terrorists who have been released from prison.
“The fact that this man [Khan] was not only known but was a convicted terrorist is a huge point and is actually something that I have been banging on about for years: that we are releasing unreformed jihadis back into society and we think that a tag around their ankles is going to keep the people safe – well it’s not.”
Police are searching Khan’s home in Stafford as part of their investigation into the attack which came 25 days after the UK’s National Terror Threat Level was reduced from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’.