LONDON: Just hours before Khuram Butt and two accomplices drove a rented van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people nearby, he was asking neighbours where he could hire a vehicle.
One of the neighbours, Ikenna Chigbo, said he recognised
Butt from a photo issued by British police following Saturday
night’s attack in the capital which killed seven and injured
Chigbo told Reuters that the man he knew as “Abz” had shown
interest in a van he had rented. “I was in the process of moving house, he was looking at the van, asking me where I hired it, how much it cost, and if the vans were available in automatic,” said Chigbo, who lived in a neighbouring apartment in Barking, east London.
“That was Saturday, approximately 3 pm. He came across …
almost euphoric. He just seemed on a whole different level. It
was quite strange.” Reuters could not independently verify the identity of the man who spoke to Chigbo.
London ‘attacker’ was trying to radicalise kids but Scotland Yard ‘ignored’ report against him
About seven hours later, shortly before 10 pm (2100 GMT),
Butt – along with Rachid Redouane and another man not yet named
by police – began their rampage across London Bridge and through
the bustling Borough Market area. All three were shot dead at
the scene by police.
Pakistani-born Butt, 27, a keen fan of Arsenal soccer club,
was known to the intelligence services but not thought to be
actively plotting an attack. His conversation with Chigbo also reinforces suggestions that Britain’s third deadly militant incident in just three months may have involved little planning or sophistication.
Police have said they need a major re-think about how to
counter such plots by people who had come onto their radar but
were not considered a serious threat.
“We are all needing to look very hard at our strategy at
what we’ve been doing,” said Cressida Dick, London’s police
chief. “In my view we will need to change again in the future.” Saturday’s attack follows a similar method first seen in
Britain four years ago when two British Muslim converts used a
car to mow down soldier Lee Rigby before stabbing him to death.
The London Bridge rampage was almost a direct copy of the
crude attack in March when Khalid Masood ploughed into
pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before stabbing a
policeman to death in the grounds of parliament.
Neither attack seemed to be the result of any long-term planning nor, despite the claim of responsibility by IS, any serious foreign direction.
“We are dealing with people who appear very volatile, very unstable many of them, people who are prepared to use low-tech methods, (who) sometimes go from thinking about the idea to carrying out the attack in a very short space of time,” Dick said, adding further copycat attacks were a possibility.
London terror attack
‘Terrorism breeds terrorism’
Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain is faced with a
new trend where “terrorism breeds terrorism” and inspired not
just by “carefully-constructed plots after years of planning and
training – and not even as lone attackers radicalised online –
but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 has identified
about 23,000 people as potentially violent Islamists with 3,000
of these considered to pose a threat. It is currently running
500 active investigations.
“It is a very large number. It’s very, very hard. You only
have to think how would you go about keeping under very active
surveillance over 20,000 people,” Dick said. Most of those involved in the three recent attacks were known to the security services, but none had been considered to pose a threat that required extra surveillance.
The Westminster Bridge attacker had shown up on the
periphery of previous terrorism investigations that brought
Masood to MI5’s notice, but not enough to warrant further
action. Investigators now believe he was a “lone wolf”, who
radicalised himself through material on the internet.
Salman Abedi – the 22-year-old born in Britain to Libyan
parents who killed 22 people in a suicide attack on a pop
concert in Manchester last month – was also known to MI5 but not
under active investigation.
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The BBC reported concerns had been raised with the authorities on at least three occasions. Butt was known to police and MI5. He appeared in a TV documentary last year about a radical group which was seen at
one stage unfurling an IS flag.
One of his friends told BBC Asian Network he had phoned an anti-terrorist hotline set up by British authorities because he
feared Butt had been radicalised after watching clips of US
preacher Ahmad Musa Jebril, whose online sermons have been a
leading source of inspiration for foreign fighters in Syria.
“I did my bit, I know a lot of people did but the authorities didn’t do their bit and that’s what’s shocking,” the friend, who the BBC did not identify, said. Another neighbour also said she had reported Butt to police two years ago after she feared he was radicalising children in a
“There was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was
being planned and the investigation had been prioritised
accordingly,” police said in a statement.
A report by Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee
into Rigby’s murder in May 2013 concluded the security services
could not have stopped the attack. However, one of the killers
had been investigated five times, twice as a high priority, and
it said more needed to be done in dealing with low-level
With finite resources, the authorities have to weigh up who
poses the greatest threat and needs intensive monitoring. At
least two dozen people are needed to carry out 24-hour
surveillance on just one suspect and about 50 officers can be
required at times.
“It’s costly and difficult and it’s hard to know what’s
going on in people’s minds,” Commissioner Dick said. The
authorities say they have foiled 18 plots since Rigby’s killing,
including five since the Westminster Bridge attack in March. Raffaello Pantucci, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, said it was not clear whether intelligence agencies would be able to develop a system which could cope with such low-tech plots.
“You can do all the sort of calculations you want … but ultimately it’s going to be difficult if all it takes to do a plot is to get a knife and drive your car into people,” he said. “In a way it would be even worse if they didn’t know who these people were, and were looking in completely the wrong place.”