The Daily Telegraph

Police warned to watch older extremists

- By Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, Gordon Rayner and Steven Swinford

BRITAIN’S counter-terrorism strategy should be reviewed to take account of the threat from older extremists after the Westminste­r attack, experts said last night.

Terrorist profiling currently regards those in their teenage years and their twenties as posing the greatest risk and anti-radicalisa­tion efforts focus on schools, universiti­es and social media.

However, Adrian Ajao, at 52, became the oldest Islamist terrorist to launch an attack in Britain when he murdered three pedestrian­s and a police officer on Wednesday. The average age of previous terrorists and suspects was 22.

MI5 is understood to have launched a review into how it handled its intelligen­ce on Ajao – who also went by the alias Khalid Masood – after it investigat­ed him over “violent extremism” but decided he was not a significan­t risk.

He came to the attention of intelligen­ce services as a “peripheral” figure in a terror plot and not a priority target.

The attack will lead to a global discussion among intelligen­ce services on whether to re-evaluate suspect profiles, given claims that Ajao was “re-- radicalise­d” in later life. However, senior Whitehall sources said last night that MI5 had made the correct assessment of Ajao, based on the intelligen­ce available, and that he was not discounted as a threat because of his age.

Yesterday, new details emerged of Ajao’s violent and unpredicta­ble past.

A former friend in the East Sussex village of Northiam said Masood, known then as Adrian Elms or Adrian Ajao, was a cocaine-snorting thug with a “blood lust” who had sought profession­al help for his urges to kill people. It also emerged that the daughter of Ajao,

who used a car to kill pedestrian­s on Westminste­r Bridge, was almost killed herself once when she was struck by a lorry on her way to school. Andie Ajao, now 24, was seriously injured.

Saudi Arabia also announced that Ajao had travelled there three times since 2005, including briefly in 2015.

Ajao’s text messages on the encrypted text service WhatsApp were being examined by police, who believe he may have been in contact with possible accomplice­s prior to the attack.

David Videcette, a senior counter terrorism officer who investigat­ed the 7/7 bombings in 2005, said the way threats were assessed needed to be revisited. “There is a tendency to try to profile what a typical terrorist is,” he said. “But this can be very problemati­c because, of course, not every terrorist fits the profile. Just because he [Ajao] had reached his fifties does not mean that he was no longer a danger.

“MI5 have a grid system with the most dangerous figures at the top. If you are a long way down the list, because you have only been on the periphery of something, then the reality is there will not be a lot of resources being put into keeping tabs on you.”

Lord Carlile, a former independen­t reviewer of terrorism legislatio­n, said: “I doubt Masood’s age was the only reason he was taken off the list, but it might well have been a factor .”

Two suspects, both men, remained in custody last night. Seven people have been released. A 32-year-old woman, held in Manchester, has been bailed, while a 39-year-old woman arrested in east London has been released on bail until late March.

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