Nine years before Usman Khan killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge, he was overheard by British security services discussing how to use an al Qaeda manual he had memorised to build a pipe bomb.
Usman Khan came to the attention of counter-terrorism investigators because he was involved in a highly active cell around Stoke-on-Trent, part of a wider network of radicals then headed by the preacher Anjem Choudary.
MI5 and the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit had intelligence that a group of nine men from London, Cardiff and Stoke, including Khan, wanted to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Khan also wanted to set up a terrorism training “madrasa”, in Kashmir to train a new generation of British militants to either fight out there or bring their skills home.
Khan and the others were convicted and jailed in 2012.
The West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and MI5 team who worked on the investigation had no doubt the men were dangerous .
The judge gave Khan a special prison term known as Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).
That meant he would serve at least eight years and could not be released unless he had convinced the Parole Board he was no longer a threat.
His IPP was replaced by the same extended sentence (reflecting dangerousness) that was given to some of the others.
That meant he would definitely still spend eight years in jail – and then he would be automatically released at the halfway point on licence into the community.
This is where an effort to deradicalize a Islamic fanatic went wrong.
Even Khan’s solicitor Mr Sharif was of opinion he wanted a very specific jihadist ideology expert to work with his client because he feared Khan’s hate was so deeply-rooted.
When Khan was released on licence, he was subject to a variety of forms of management in the community, as is largely standard for terrorism offenders:
Khan was wearing a GPS tag to monitor his specific movements
He was sent to a bail hostel in Staffordshire where his comings and goings could be supervise.
Khan was set free in December 2018 – without a parole board assessment.
On Friday, he strapped on a fake suicide vest, armed himself with large kitchen knives and went on the rampage at a conference on prisoner rehabilitation beside London Bridge.
Confronted by bystanders, Three armed police officers surrounded him. They fired twice. He was dead.
“This individual was known to authorities,” said Britain’s top counter terrorism officer, Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu. “A key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”
Islamic State (IS) said the attack was carried out by one of its fighters and was in response to its calls to target countries that have been part of a coalition fighting the terror group, according to its Amaq news agency. The group did not provide any evidence.
London Bridge was also the scene of another deadly attack before the 2017 election, but British authorities have cast doubt on those claims of responsibility made by IS.
Then, three terrorists drove a van into pedestrians before stabbing people in the surrounding area, killing eight and injuring at least 48.
Khan, a British man whose family is from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was radicalised by internet propaganda spread by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and in particular by terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.
Awlaki, identified by US intelligence as “chief of external operations” for al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch and a Web-savvy publicist for the Islamist cause, was killed in a CIA drone strike in 2011.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, seeking re-election on December 12, said it was important to enforce terrorism-related sentences.
“It does not make sense for us, as a society, to be putting people convicted of terrorist offences, serious violent offences, out on early release,” he said on Saturday after visiting the scene of the attack.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth