London Bridge attacker identified as Usman Khan, UK national of Pakistani origin

Published November 30, 2019
This undated file handout photo obtained from West Midlands Police on February 1, 2012 shows Usman Khan, then 20, who was jailed on February 9, 2012 with others after admitting to being involved with a group of fundamentalists who plotted a spate of mail bomb attacks during the run-up to Christmas in 2010. — AFP
This undated file handout photo obtained from West Midlands Police on February 1, 2012 shows Usman Khan, then 20, who was jailed on February 9, 2012 with others after admitting to being involved with a group of fundamentalists who plotted a spate of mail bomb attacks during the run-up to Christmas in 2010. — AFP

Metropolitan Police on Saturday identified the London Bridge attacker as British national Usman Khan, a 28-year-old male from Staffordshire.

"We are now in a position to confirm the identity of the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan, who had been residing in the Staffordshire area. As a result, officers are, tonight, carrying out searches at an address in Staffordshire,” Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said in a statement issued past midnight.

Khan stabbed two people to death and left three injured a day earlier in an attack that caused fear and panic across the city as residents revisited the spectre of terror returning to London.

"This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences,” Basu said. “He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence and clearly, a key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack."

He added that Khan was shot by specialist armed forces and died at the scene.

"The circumstances, as we currently understand them, are that the attacker attended an event earlier on Friday afternoon at Fishmonger’s Hall called ‘Learning Together’."

He added that police believe the attack began inside before Khan left the building and proceeded onto London Bridge, where he was detained and subsequently confronted and shot by armed officers.

Who is Usman Khan?

According to The Telegraph, Khan — a British citizen born in the UK and of Pakistani origin — left school with no qualifications after spending part of his late teens in Pakistan, where he lived with his mother when she became ill.​ On his return to the UK, he started preaching extremism on the internet and attracted a significant following.

In January 2012, Khan pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism contrary to section 5(1) of the UK’s Terrorism Act 2006. Khan was among nine men charged with conspiracy to bomb high-profile London targets in the run-up to Christmas in 2010. At the time, the men were described as an Al Qaeda-inspired group that wanted to send mail bombs to various targets and launch a "Mumbai-style" atrocity. At the time of his arrest, Khan lived in Stoke-on-Trent, a city in central England.

At the time, a hand-written target list found at one of the defendants' homes listed the names and addresses of then London mayor Boris Johnson, the American Embassy and the Stock Exchange. The British police counter-terror operation which led to their arrests was the biggest of 2010.

Khan was sentenced to detention for public protection with a minimum custodial term of eight years — a sentence designed by UK authorities to protect the public from serious offenders whose crimes did not merit a life sentence.

Offenders sentenced to an IPP are set a minimum term which they must spend in prison. After they have completed their tariff they can apply to a parole board for release. The Parole Board releases an offender only if it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public for the convict to be confined. If offenders are given parole they will be on supervised licence for at least 10 years.

2010 bomb plot

The judge who had examined the sentencing appeals of Khan and the other convicts in 2013 had said: "They wished to support and commit acts of terrorism in furtherance of their religious beliefs. They came to the attention of the security services who monitored them using covert surveillance techniques and devices and were able to effect their arrest prior to advanced steps having been taken to implement their plans."

He also noted that although they were from different parts of the country (Stoke, Cardiff and London), the groups managed to meet together.

The judge had also said that the Stoke defendants, which included Khan, were recorded discussing terror attacks overseas. On December 15, 2010, Khan had been monitored by UK authorities in conversation about how to construct a pipe bomb from a recipe referred to in an Al Qaeda publication.

Authorities also heard Khan seeking to radicalise another male and making clear his intentions to travel abroad to a training camp which outwardly appeared to be a madrassah. The Stoke group, which included Khan, were to fund the camp and recruit men for it. The court noted that "Khan expected only victory, martyrdom or imprisonment".

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