On November 29th 2019, a man and a woman were brutally killed amid an islamist terrorist knife attack in London, England. Two other people were also injured in the attack. The attack represents the first deadly terrorist plot in the United Kingdom since 2017, when separate attacks in March, May, and June 2017 killed 35 people.
In footage captured by cellphone, civilians can be seen wrestling with the Islamist attacker, who is lying on the ground, before being pulled to safety by police arriving at the scene. Moments later officers can be seen opening fire, killing the attacker after it was revealed he was weaing a hoax suicide bomb vest.
However, following the attack it was revealed that the terrorist, Usman Khan, had been known to officials prior to the deadly attack. According to reports, Khan was among nine others, in three cities, who were arrested in 2010 and ultimately convicted for their role in an Al Qaeda plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Additionally, the MI5 had also disrupted Khan’s plans to establish a training camp and inside of the disputed region of Kashmir, along the border of Pakistan and India. This region represents an ongoing and growing risk for the rise of new radial islamist groups capable of plotting attacks against the West. Officials say that Khan, an ethnic Pakistani, had attempted to use a madrassa on his family’s land in Kashmir to finance the network and to train others with the goal of making them “more serious and effective terrorists.” Those convicted were accused of attending operational meetings, fundraising and preparing to travel abroad to “engage in training for acts of terrorism.”
In 2012, Khan was sentenced to serve 16 years inside of prison for his role in the terrorist plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange among other charges. Khan served eight years in prison before he was released in December 2018 — about halfway through his sentence. Why was a man convicted of a terrorism plot released from prison half way through his sentence?
Did UK security forces continue to monitor Usman Khan for his risk of terrorism after he was released? Upon release, Khan was indeed given an electronic tracking device — unfortunately this was not enough to prevent Khan from plotting again and, this time, taking life. To what degree were security officials monitoring and tracking Khan in the months since he had been released from their custody? While questions remain to be answered and until new information comes to light, it should be emphasized that this is not an uncommon problem with regard to UK national security.
In March 2017, after five people were killed in an Islamic State inspired attack, it was revealed that the prime suspect had been known to British security officials prior to the attack. In May 2017, after 22 people were slaughtered in an Islamic State inspired bombing, it was revealed that security forces had known the suspects links to islamic terrorism beforehand and failed to protect the public on at least five occassions. Furthermore, in June 2017, after eight people were slaughtered in an islamist knife attack on the London Bridge, it was revealed that UK security forces had known at least some of the attackers beforehand and failed to protect the public. In each of the three deadly terrorist attacks, which occurred in 2017, they all have one thing in common: British security forces knew the identities of individuals known to be associated with Islamic terrorism and subsequently failed to ensure that they would not endanger the public.
Following revelations that yet another islamist terrorist suspect had been known to British security forces prior to an attack taking place, British Prime Minister Johnson spoke to the press in an attempt to quell their concerns. PM Johnson said, “I have long argued that it is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminal to come out of prison early, and it is very important that we get out of that habit, and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially terrorists.”
While we can not expect every terrorist plot to be prevented, we can expect to hold our public officials responsible for their failures and potential acts of negligence which have continued to result in the deaths of dozens of British citizens in recent years — some of which were clearly preventable.