Tuesday 19 September 2017

Ringleader behind London attack starred in documentary 'Jihadis Next Door'

Terrorist was placed under investigation by police back in 2015

Armed police officers patrol outside The Shard tower and London Bridge railway station in London. Photo: Getty
Armed police officers patrol outside The Shard tower and London Bridge railway station in London. Photo: Getty

Sarah Knapton and Martin Evans

The ringleader of the London Bridge terror attack was so open about his extremist views that he appeared in a fly-on-the-wall documentary entitled 'The Jihadis Next Door', it emerged yesterday.

Khuram Butt (27), a British national who was born in Pakistan, was filmed praying in front of an Islamic State flag in London's Regent's Park as part of a controversial Channel 4 programme that was broadcast in January last year.

By the time the documentary went out, the father of two had already been under investigation by the police and MI5 for six months.

But despite receiving calls from concerned members of the public about Butt's increasingly radical views, police concluded he was not a threat and the investigation was scaled back.

Butt, of Barking, East London, is believed to have led the trio of terrorists who ploughed into pedestrians using a hired van, before stabbing revellers in pubs and bars on Saturday night.

A second man, Rachid Redouane (30), was named by police as one of the other two attackers. Redouane, a pastry chef, was unknown to police. Redouane, a Moroccan-Libyan, also used the name Rachid Elkhdar, and claimed to be six years younger than his true age and lived in a tower block in Dagenham, not far from Butt.

Left: Khuram Shazad Butt. Right: Rachid Redouane. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Left: Khuram Shazad Butt. Right: Rachid Redouane. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Redouane had been living in Rathmines, Dublin, until late 2016, according to Garda sources. The third man, who has not yet been named, is not a UK citizen.

The revelations will add to pressure on the authorities over whether enough is being done to tackle extremism, after it emerged that Butt is the third terrorist in recent months to carry out an attack despite being known to security services.

But last night Britain's most senior counter-terror officer, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, defended the investigation and said he had seen nothing so far to suggest a "poor decision had been made".

Mr Rowley said there had been no intelligence to suggest Butt was planning a terrorist act and no evidence that he had committed any terrorist offences.

He said that as a result Butt - who wore an Arsenal football shirt when he carried out his deadly attack - had been "prioritised in the lower echelons of our investigative work".

His admission came as it emerged that Butt had links to the radical preacher Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned Al-Muhajiroun group, and was with him the day after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woowich, south London in 2013.

The Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim anti-extremist charity, revealed that its chief executive, Mohammed Shafiq, was called a traitor by Butt after he denounced the killing of Fusilier Rigby.

Hannah Stuart, author of Islamist Terrorism, a definitive analysis of UK attacks and offences, said: "Al-Muhajiroun is obviously very well known to both the police and to MI5. It is connected to a quarter of terrorism offences.

Ms Stuart, who is co-head of the security and extremism unit at the Policy Exchange think tank, added: "The London Bridge attacker's connection to al-Muhajiroun's leadership raises very serious questions about the security services and the police."

The information came to light as Scotland yard chief, Cressida Dick said Britain had been hit by an "unprecedented" wave of terror attacks and said there would have to be a review of resources.

Unlike Butt, his accomplices were not known to the security services and are both thought to be foreign nationals.

The second terrorist was named as Rachid Redouane, 30, who police said had claimed to be both Moroccan and Libyan. He was also known to use the name Rachid Elkhdar, and was understood to be in possession of an Irish identity card when he was shot dead by police. Redouane was married to a British woman from Barking and had an 18-month-old daughter.

Identify

It was not clear when or how he arrived in the UK, and Scotland Yard said that would form part of the investigation.

Police said while they believed they knew who the third terrorist was they were still working with international partners to formally identify him. It is not clear how the three men all knew one another, but at least two of the gang had lived within yards of one another in the Barking area of east London.

A vigil was held at London Bridge last night for the victims of the attack.

Seven people were killed in Saturday's onslaught and 48 injured were taken to hospital. Of those, 36 are still being cared for in London hospitals; 18 remain in a critical condition.

Irish Independent

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