Vigils held for victims of London attack as politicians trade blame

Updated December 03, 2019

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LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre), Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attend a vigil for the victims on Monday.—Reuters
LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre), Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attend a vigil for the victims on Monday.—Reuters

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn paused on Monday to honour the two people killed in the London Bridge attack, then went back to trading blame for the security failings that allowed a man who had been jailed for terrorist crimes to go on a violent rampage in the heart of London.

Usman Khan stabbed two people to death and injured three others Friday before being shot and killed by police on the bridge. Two of the injured remain hospitalised in stable condition.

Politicians, who are campaigning ahead of Britain’s Dec 12 election, immediately sought to deflect blame for the first fatal attack in London since 2017.

Johnson accused Labour of being soft on terrorism and vowed to end the early release of inmates convicted of terrorist crimes. He said it was repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man could be freed.

Corbyn blamed years of cuts to the police, prison and parole services by Conservative governments left the system unable to monitor offenders.

Political dignitaries, city officials, friends of the victims and Londoners who had never met them attended a vigil outside London’s medieval Guildhall to remember Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who died in the attack, and to honour members of the emergency services and bystanders who fought the attacker with fists, fire extinguishers and even a narwhal tusk.

British authorities are investigating whether Khan lapsed back into radicalisation after his release, or deceived people into thinking he had left extremism behind Khan spent time at HMP Whitemoor, a maximum-security prison where Learning Together runs courses for inmates.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that he was featured as a success story on Learning Together’s website. The site appears to have been removed since the attack.

Johnson said the case showed that some criminals are beyond rehabilitation. “There are unquestionably some cases which are just too tough to crack and alas he appears to have been one of them,” he said during a campaign visit to Southampton.

But Ian Acheson, a criminologist who led a government-commissioned review into Islamic extremism in British prisons, said UK deradicalisation programmes were ineffective and overstretched authorities were ill-equipped to deal with extremists determined to play the system.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019