The UK’s domestic security service, MI5, is assessing whether the risk from Islamist terror networks has increased in the wake of Friday’s London Bridge attack, which left two Britons dead and three more injured.
Alongside an internal inquiry into the management of the attacker Usman Khan, who was shot dead by police at the scene of the attack, MI5 is also reviewing the wider effect on jihadi groups in the UK who may now be emboldened to act. This is standard practice after any terror event, officials insisted.
Khan was a former terrorist convicted of involvement in a 2010 plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange and set up a military training camp in Pakistan. He served half of a 16-year sentence, before being released last December.
Friday’s attack killed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23. Both were attending an event organised by Learning Together, a project based at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology aimed at aiding prisoners’ rehabilitation through providing them with higher education.
The incident has raised serious questions over the way he was being monitored by the probation service, police and security officials.
Khan had apparently presented himself as a reformed character in the 11 months since leaving prison.
It was at a “Learning Together” event in London on Friday that Khan suddenly embarked on a stabbing attack on fellow delegates while wearing a hoax suicide vest. At the time he was still fitted with an electronic tag, as part of his management by probation services.
According to UK officials, Khan was one of around 3,000 individuals subject to “live investigation” by security services, and was under low-level monitoring which was standard for recently released terror offenders.
His behaviour, both in prison and post-release, did not give rise to any concerns that he was a risk to the public, a UK official said. Neither did the security services come across any intelligence suggesting any renewed terrorist intent.
As a result, he was likely to have been considered a level three threat, on a scale of one to four. Those designated as level four are still in prison, so present the lowest risk of conducting an attack, while those judged to be a level one risk display credible links to attack planning. Level three individuals are watched to determine whether they still pose a threat.
“You can’t monitor your way out of a problem like this,” one official told the Financial Times. “We can only legally monitor someone if there is clear intelligence that they are doing something of concern.”
MI5’s internal inquiry into last week’s attack comes two years after an official report carried out by the UK’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, found that the Security Service could have prevented the Manchester Arena bombing which killed 22 people in May 2017.
Lord Anderson’s report also found that the ringleader of the 2017 London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was actively under investigation at the time of the attack.
In a statement on Monday, MI5’s director-general Andrew Parker said his agency had been “disgusted” by the latest atrocity to hit the streets of the UK.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, families and all those affected by this senseless act,” Sir Andrew said.
Counter-terror police are now seeking out Khan’s allies in the Stock Exchange attack plot — a group of radicals originally inspired by Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary.
Of the eight men jailed alongside Khan, six have now been released. Nazam Hussain, one of Khan’s co-conspirators, was arrested and recalled to prison on “suspicion of preparing terrorist acts” on Sunday evening.
On Monday, a man was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for breaching reporting requirements under anti-terror laws. Yahya Rashid, 23, of north London, had been arrested on Sunday and charged with failing without a reasonable excuse to notify police of his telephone number and email address under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008. He pleaded guilty to both offences. He was also recalled to prison for breaching the licence under which he had been released after a previous terror conviction in 2015 and will have to serve the remainder of that five-year sentence before starting the new sentence. The Metropolitan Police said Rashid’s offences were not linked to Friday’s attack.
The Ministry of Justice announced at the weekend a wider review into the licence conditions for 74 terrorist offenders who have been released from prison.
The justice secretary Robert Buckland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that the review was more than a paper exercise and that the National Probation Service — the government-run service that monitors high-risk offenders in England and Wales — would be meeting all of them this week.
“It’s not just a paper exercise — it’s a real-life exercise,” he said.
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