London Bridge attack now political football as UK's Johnson, Corbyn spar

01 Dec 2019


In this grab taken from video made available by @HLOBlog, a man is surrounded by police after an incident on London Bridge in London on Nov 29. — AP
In this grab taken from video made available by @HLOBlog, a man is surrounded by police after an incident on London Bridge in London on Nov 29. — AP

Britain’s political leaders are sparring over who is responsible for the early release of a convicted man who launched a stabbing attack in central London that left two dead.

The argument centers over the early release from prison of Usman Khan, who served roughly half his sentence before being set free.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday blamed Khan’s freedom on changes in sentencing rules made by the last Labour Party government before Johnson’s Conservatives took power in 2010.

He promised to toughen sentencing laws.

Read: Questions raised on early release of 28-year-old convict who launched London Bridge attack

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to provide security “on the cheap”.

After a one-day pause out of respect for victims, the Friday attack is dominating the political scene as the election nears. The vote is set for December 12.

Londoners fight back to curtail carnage

Shocked and saddened Londoners dealing with the return of terrorism to their streets after a two-year hiatus found solace in the way bystanders fought to subdue the London Bridge attacker, keeping the death count lower than it would have been if they had fled.

Particularly striking were the weapons they used to confront the killer: a fire extinguisher and — incredibly enough — a 5-foot narwhal tusk apparently taken from the wall of Fishmongers’ Hall when the attack began.

Video from the scene on Friday shows one man spraying the fire extinguisher at the knife-wielding attacker and trying to hit him with the blunt instrument, while another uses the whale tusk to try to pin the man down.

Others ganged up on the man, wrestling him to the ground and stripping away his weapons.

Additional footage shows another man — said by some media outlets to be a plainclothes policeman — calmly walking away from the scene with one of the attacker’s knives, making sure it could not be used to kill again.

The attacker, later identified as 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan, was restrained until police arrived and — after he flashed what looked like a suicide vest — shot him dead. Two people were killed and three wounded in his attack.

The Londoners’ valor was praised not only by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson but also by ordinary people on Twitter.

“We’ll never know how many lives are being saved in this moment. Heroes is an overused word, but entirely correct here,” wrote one man after viewing the video.

“Unbelievable Bravery. truly humbling,” a woman wrote.

The brief video had been viewed more than 2 million times on Twitter by Saturday afternoon.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the bystanders who brought down the attacker could have followed advice and run away for their own safety but decided to run toward danger instead.

“We saw Londoners, ordinary citizens, acting in an extraordinary way,” he said.

Some of those who challenged the attacker were former prisoners attending a conference on rehabilitation along with the assailant at Fishmongers’ Hall, where the attack apparently began. The group included a murderer who had reformed, British press reports said.

Steve Hurst, who was in a car driving by, got out to join the group trying to restrain the attacker. He told BBC he tried to kick Khan’s foot so he would drop the knife.

“We were trying to do as much as we could to dislodge the knife from his hand so he couldn’t harm anyone else,” he said.