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UK police: Bridge attacker had been jailed for terror crimes

By JILL LAWLESS

and DANICA KIRKA

Associated Press

LONDON — A man wearing a fake explosive vest stabbed several people Friday in London, killing two in what police are treating as a terrorist attack before being tackled by members of the public and then fatally shot by officers on London Bridge.

Police said the attacker was Usman Khan, a 28-year-old who was released on probation last year after serving six years for terrorism offenses.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick said two stabbing victims had died and three injured people were being treated in hospitals after the attack, which unfolded just yards from the site of a deadly 2017 van and knife rampage.

Health officials said one of the injured was in critical but stable condition, one was stable and the third had less serious injuries.

Police said Khan was convicted in 2012 of terrorism offenses and released in December 2018 “on license,” which means he had to meet certain conditions or face recall to prison. Several British media outlets reported that he was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.

Basu said Khan was attending a London event hosted by Learning Together — a Cambridge University-backed program that works to educate prisoners — when he launched the attack, killing a man and a woman and injuring three others.

The attacker’s history will raise difficult questions for Britain’s government and security services. Neil Basu, the London police counterterrorism head, said police were not actively looking for any other suspects.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “long argued” that it was a “mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early.”

“It is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists, that I think the public will want to see,” he said.

Johnson, who chaired a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee late Friday, said more police would be patrolling the streets in the coming days “for reassurance purposes.”

The violence erupted less than two weeks before Britain holds a national election. The main pollical parties temporarily suspended campaigning in London as a mark of respect.

Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Neil Basu said the suspect appeared to be wearing a bomb vest but it turned out to be “a hoax explosive device.”

Dick, the police chief, said officers were called just before 2 p.m. to Fishmongers’ Hall, a conference venue at the north end of London Bridge. The pedestrian and vehicle bridge links the city’s business district with the south bank of the River Thames.

Learning Together was holding a conference there on Friday. Cambridge Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope said he was “devastated to learn that today’s hateful attack on London Bridge may have been targeted at staff, students and alumni attending an event organized by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.”

Minutes after the stabbings report, witnesses saw a man with a knife being wrestled to the ground by members of the public on the bridge before armed-response officers shot him dead.

Video images showed people spraying the fleeing suspect with a fire extinguisher, while another passer-by held what appeared to be a long white stick. Witness Amy Coop, who was at the Fishmongers’ Hall, said it was a narwhal tusk the man had grabbed from a wall before going to confront the attacker.

One video posted on social media showed two men struggling on the bridge before police pulled a man in civilian clothes off a black-clad man on the ground. Gunshots followed. Another depicted a man in suit and overcoat holding a long knife that apparently had been taken from the attacker.

Karen Bosch, who was on a bus crossing the bridge, said she saw police “wrestling with one tall, bearded man” and then heard “gunshots, two loud pops.”