Shocking details are emerging of the attacker, named as Usman Khan, who fatally stabbed two people and injured three others in broad daylight during a deadly stabbing rampage in central London on Friday afternoon local time.
He was one of nine members of an al Qaida-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp, and was jailed for a minimum term of eight years in 2012.
The UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu issued a statement on Saturday at 1pm (AEDT) confirming the attacker was Usman Khan.
“A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers and I can confirm that he died at the scene.
“We are now in a position to confirm the identity of the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan (10.03.1991), who had been residing in the Staffordshire area. As a result, officers are, tonight [Friday night local time], carrying out searches at an address in Staffordshire.
“This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences. He was released from prison in December 2018 on licence and clearly, a key line of enquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack,” the statement read
To read the full updated statement by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, please visit https://t.co/wtwb4I3fE6
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) November 30, 2019
A man and a woman were killed and three injured, one critical, after Khan, wearing a fake explosives belt with two 20cm kitchen knives with one strapped to his hands, went on the attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has called a snap election for December 12 and is due to host NATO leaders including US President Donald Trump next week, praised those who took on the man for their courage.
“I … want to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others,” Johnson told reporters in Downing Street.
“For me they represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all of our country.
Hours later, three people were wounded in a stabbing in The Netherlands in The Hague’s main shopping district on Friday night although police were not yet able to say whether a terror motive was to blame.
“Just terrible news out of London and The Hague,” Mr Morrison said in a post on Facebook on Saturday.
Assistant Commissioner Basu said the London rampage started about 2pm local time on Friday when police were called to a stabbing at 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.
Cambridge-based prison-education organisation Learning Together was holding an event there Friday, and the University of Cambridge said it was “gravely concerned” about students, staff and alumni who might have been caught up in the attack.
Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope issued a statement on social media saying he was “devastated” his university may have been the target of the attack.
Statement from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge regarding yesterday's incident at London Bridge. pic.twitter.com/nN0WqmjkF9
— Cambridge University (@Cambridge_Uni) November 30, 2019
“The circumstances, as we currently understand them, are that the attacker attended an event earlier on Friday afternoon at Fishmonger’s Hall called ‘Learning Together’. We believe that the attack began inside before he left the building and proceeded onto London Bridge, where he was detained and subsequently confronted and shot by armed officers,” the UK police statement read.
Khan was taken down by members of the public – hailed as heroes – on London Bridge, with civilians using a stick and fire extinguisher as impromptu weapons.
A guy who was with us at Fishmongers Hall took a 5’ narwhale tusk from the wall and went out to confront the attacker. You can see him standing over the man (with what looks like a white pole) in the video. We were trying to help victims inside but that man’s a hero #LondonBridge
— Amy Coop (@theamycoop) November 29, 2019
One man managed to remove one of the knives from Khan, urging bystanders to run away as the suicide vest was identified.
Another man grabbed the second knife and ran with it dangling in his right hand across the bridge, pulling out a white cloth to wipe his bloodied hands.
Footage on social media shows a group restraining Khan before three specialist armed police arrived on scene where they fired two close shots.
Witnesses described scenes of wild panic as people fled from the bridge, diving under restaurant tables and hiding in shops.
London Bridge hero ‘ran through traffic’ and hurdled a barrier to tackle knifeman wearing fake suicide vest as 12 are injured in shocking terror attack https://t.co/CvQvfsNH8G
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) November 29, 2019
Assistant Commissioner Basu confirmed afterwards the suicide vest was a fake.
London Bridge and the Borough Market were the scene of a terror attack in 2017 in which eight victims were killed – including Australians Kirsty Boden, 28, and Sara Zelenak, 21 – along with the three terrorists.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also praised the civilians’ heroics.
“What’s remarkable about the images we’ve seen is the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran towards danger not knowing what confronted them,” Councillor Khan said.
“We do know from the statement given by the Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu that there appears to have been a device on the suspect.
“Members of the public didn’t realise at the time that was a hoax … they really are the best of us.
“Another example of the bravery of ordinary Londoners running towards danger, risking their own personal safety to try and save others.”
London Bridge footage… pic.twitter.com/1IuWRwecpL
— Alex (@alexandershine_) November 29, 2019
The bridge and the Borough Market at the opposite end have been cordoned off following the incident and London Bridge Station has been closed.
Nurse Jackie Bensfield, 32, described how she asked to be let off a bus on London Bridge after she heard gunshots.
Ms Bensfield, who was on her way home from work, said she exited the bus and “ran like hell” to escape the shots.
Connor Allen, who was in his van on the bridge when it was evacuated said: “Everyone just started running, you heard these pops and that was it. We just got out the van and started running.”
One business owner said she had been crossing London Bridge to get to her shop on the north side when police officers stopped her.
That was when she heard gunshots: “We heard shooting, it was about five or six shots, I heard five or six quite clearly.
“All my staff have been evacuated.”