By Celine Wadhera and Sean Russell
Usman Khan, 28, has been identified as the assailant who was shot dead in yesterday’s London Bridge terror attack. He was already known to police, having been convicted in 2012 on terrorism charges, and was wearing an electronic tracking tag.
Yesterday’s attack began shortly before 2:00pm in Fishmongers’ Hall, at a conference on prisoner rehabilitation, called “Learning Together” run by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.
Students, faculty, former inmates and prison staff were all invited to attend. Khan was among the former inmates invited.
The Times reported that Khan appeared in the afternoon session of the conference clutching two large kitchen knives and threatening to blow up the hall. He then proceeded on a rampage, stabbing anyone in his way.
Khan left the hall, carrying the two knives, and was subsequently chased by a group of men armed with weapons of convenience – a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from within the hall. The group wrestled Khan to the ground.
Thomas Gray, 24, was among them. Gray described the situation to the PA news agency: “He had two knives on him, one in each hand… I stamped on his left wrist while someone else smacked his hand on the ground and kicked one of the knives away.”
Police arrived on scene at 2:03pm and confronted the suspect. As Gray moved to pick up one of the knives, he said: “I heard a cop say ‘he has got a bomb.'”
Officers advised the civilians subduing Khan to move away, and fired multiple shots at him.
Two members of the public, a man and a woman, were killed in the attack. The man has been named as Jack Merritt, the course coordinator of the Learning Together programme. Nothing else is known about him at this time.
Three others; two women and one man were injured and remain in hospital. At least one remains in critical condition. Authorities have not yet released the identities of the remaining victims.
The London Bridge area remained under lockdown for many hours, and evacuated residents were asked to stay elsewhere for the night.
A heavy police presence remains in the area; officers are working to reopen roads, and London Bridge station has now been reopened.
Police also conducted a search of the block of flats where Khan was living in Stafford in the West Midlands.
Earlier this morning, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, said in a statement that police were not actively seeking anyone else in connection to the attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited London Bridge today to “to thank police officers and first responders following yesterday’s tragic attack.”
Khan’s previous conviction
In 2010, Khan had been part of an al Qaida-inspired group that plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange. He was found guilty of various terrorist offences, and given an indeterminate sentence, requiring him to serve at least eight years in prison before any consideration of release.
Mr Justice Wilkie, the judge presiding over the case, said in his ruling that Khan posed “such a significant risk that the public could not be adequately protected by [his] being managed on licence in the community,” even after a lengthy imprisonment.
In 2013 Khan appealed against his indeterminate sentence. Lord Justice Levenson revoked it, imposing a 16-year custodial sentence instead. In December, 2018, Khan was released from prison, on license.
Khan was to be supervised by probation for the remaining eight years of his sentence, which included wearing an electronic monitoring tag.
In a video interview Khan told the BBC in 2008: “I ain’t no terrorist.”
Authorities have launched an inquiry in order to understand how Khan, under licence, was able to carry out this attack.
Prime Minister Johnson has said it doesn’t make sense for those convicted of terrorism offences to be released early.
In a statement released today he said, “it is clear to me that this guy was out, he’d served half of his sentence. He was out on automatic early release and I have long said that this system simply isn’t working.”
Police continue to appeal for anyone with information on the attack, particularly those who were in or near Fishmongers’ Hall, to contact 0800 789 321.