Lon­don deaths put fo­cus on early re­lease

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - WORLD - By Gre­gory Katz

LON­DON — Us­man Khan was con­victed on ter­ror­ism charges but let out of prison early. He at­tended a “Learn­ing Together” con­fer­ence for ex-of­fend­ers and used the event to launch a bloody at­tack, stab­bing two people to death and wound­ing three oth­ers.

Po­lice shot him dead af­ter he flashed what seemed to be a sui­cide vest. Khan is gone, but the questions re­main: Why was he let out early? Did au­thor­i­ties be­lieve he no longer be­lieved in rad­i­cal Is­lam? Why didn’t the con­di­tions im­posed on his re­lease pre­vent the car­nage?

Bri­tons looked for an­swers Satur­day as na­tional politi­cians sought to pin the blame else­where for what was ob­vi­ously a break­down in a se­cu­rity sys­tem that had kept Lon­don largely free of ter­ror for more than two years.

Po­lice said Khan was con­victed in 2012 of ter­ror­ism of­fenses and re­leased in De­cem­ber 2018 “on li­cense,” which means he had to meet cer­tain con­di­tions or face a return to prison. Sev­eral Bri­tish me­dia out­lets re­ported that he was wear­ing an elec­tronic an­kle bracelet that al­lowed po­lice to track his move­ments at the time of the at­tack.

Au­thor­i­ties seemed quick to blame “the sys­tem” rather than any one com­po­nent.

The Pa­role Board said it played no role in Khan’s early re­lease. It said he “ap­pears to have been re­leased au­to­mat­i­cally on li­cense (as re­quired by law), with­out ever be­ing re­ferred to the board.”

Neil Basu of the Metropoli­tan Po­lice coun­tert­er­ror­ism po­lice, said Satur­day that the con­di­tions of Khan’s re­lease had been com­plied with. He didn’t spell out what those con­di­tions were or why they failed to pre­vent him from killing two people.

The au­to­matic re­lease pro­gram ap­par­ently means no agency was given the task of de­ter­min­ing if Khan still be­lieved in rad­i­cal views he had em­braced when he was first im­pris­oned for plot­ting to at­tack a num­ber of sites and in­di­vid­u­als in Lon­don.

It is not yet known whether he took part in any of the “de­rad­i­cal­iza­tion” pro­grams used by Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties to try and re­form known ji­hadis.

The for­mer head of Bri­tain’s Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Se­cu­rity Of­fice, Chris Phillips, said it is un­rea­son­able to ask po­lice and se­cu­rity services to keep the coun­try safe while at the same time let­ting people out of prison when they are still a threat.

“We’re play­ing Rus­sian roulette with people’s lives, let­ting con­victed, known, rad­i­cal­ized ji­hadi crim­i­nals walk about our streets,” he said.

Khan had been con­victed as part of an al-Qaida-linked group that was ac­cused of plot­ting to tar­get ma­jor sites in­clud­ing Par­lia­ment and the U.S. Em­bassy and in­di­vid­u­als in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, who was then the mayor of Lon­don, the dean of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral in Lon­don and two rab­bis.

Khan ad­mit­ted to a lesser charge of en­gag­ing in con­duct for the preparatio­n of acts of ter­ror­ism. He had been se­cretly taped plot­ting at­tacks and talk­ing about mar­tyr­dom as a pos­si­bil­ity.

The Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for Fri­day’s at­tack, say­ing Khan was one of its fighters. The group’s statement, how­ever, didn’t pro­vide any ev­i­dence.

Al­berto Pezzali / As­so­ci­ated Press

Foren­sics work takes place Satur­day at the scene of the Lon­don Bridge stab­bings. The at­tacker, Us­man Khan, was con­victed in 2012 of ter­ror­ism of­fenses and re­leased from prison last year.


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