UK knife attack suspect was known to security services: reports

Khairi Saadallah (pictured) is being held on suspicion of murder.
Short Url
Updated 22 June 2020

UK knife attack suspect was known to security services: reports

  • Saadallah came to the attention of British intelligence services when he was said to have planned to travel to Syria.
  • The attacker would have been one of thousands on security services' watch list.

READING: A man held on suspicion of stabbing three people to death in a British park at the weekend was known to the security services, media reported on Monday.
The 25-year-old, widely identified as Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan refugee, was held on suspicion of murder on Saturday night, soon after the rampage in Reading, west of London.
Thames Valley Police then re-arrested him under the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows for detention without charge for up to 14 days.
Witnesses to the attack in Forbury Gardens described seeing a lone assailant walking through a park filled with people and stabbing them at random.
British media said Saadallah fled the civil war in Libya and had been released from prison earlier this month, after serving time for a series of non-terror offenses.
He briefly came to the attention of the domestic intelligence agency MI5 last year and was said to have planned to travel abroad, reportedly to Syria.
But he was not deemed to be a substantial risk. His mental health is understood to be a factor for investigating officers.
Mark Rowley, a former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, said Saadallah would have been one of thousands of people on MI5’s watch list.
Some 3,000 people are under investigation at any one time but there are up to 40,000 people who have come up on the radar in relation to extremist ideology, he told BBC radio.
“To spot one of those who is going to go from a casual interest into a determined attacker... is the most wicked problem that the services face,” he added.
The reports about the suspect’s time in prison will again raise questions about the early release of offenders after two previous terror attacks in the past year.
In November, a convicted jihadist on parole was shot dead by police after stabbing five people — two fatally — near London Bridge in the heart of the British capital.

Armed officers also shot dead another assailant who injured three people in a London stabbing attack in February. He had also been released early from a terrorism conviction.
Those attacks prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to tighten the law on early prison releases.
A second, named as Joe Ritchie-Bennett, was said to have moved to Britain from Philadelphia in the United States some 15 years ago.
US Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson offered condolences to everyone affected. “To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen,” he wrote on Twitter.
Security Minister James Brokenshire said that despite the attack, Britain’s terrorist threat level remains unchanged at “substantial,” which means an attack is deemed “likely.”
“People must remain vigilant,” he told the BBC.


Friend of Manchester Arena bomber to be released on parole

Updated 26 November 2020

Friend of Manchester Arena bomber to be released on parole

  • Abedi visited Abdallah in prison twice and the pair were in regular telephone contact discussing martyrdom
  • Abdallah has “important evidence” about the background to the deadly attack

LONDON: A friend of the Manchester Arena bomber imprisoned on terror charges is to be released on parole.
Abdalraouf Abdallah, who has “important evidence” about the background to the deadly attack, has refused to cooperate with the public inquiry into it, The Guardian reported.
He was visited by attacker Salman Abedi in jail in the months leading up to the arena bombing in which 22 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured.
Abedi visited him in prison twice and the pair were in regular telephone contact discussing martyrdom, the inquiry heard.
Abdallah was jailed in 2016 for more than five years for involvement in helping people join extremists in Syria. Despite his refusal to speak to lawyers for the inquiry about his links with Abedi, Abdallah will be released on parole.
He is claiming legal privilege by refusing to answer questions that may incriminate him, the hearing into the attack was told.
“We have no doubt he is a witness with important evidence to give. We are continuing to pursue this line of inquiry. We hope on reflection he will cooperate, so will press for him to give evidence before the inquiry,” Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, previously said.
“Salman Abedi’s relationship with Abdalraouf Abdallah was one of some significance in the period prior to the bombing and we are determined to get to the bottom of it,” Greaney added.
Abedi visited Abdallah in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison in February 2015 while he was on remand for terror offenses and in January 2017 at another prison in Liverpool.