English town mourns ter­ror at­tack vic­tims

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - WEATHER DESK -

LON­DON — The city of Read­ing mourned Mon­day for three peo­ple stabbed to death as they sat in a park in what is be­ing treated as a ter­ror­ist at­tack, gath­er­ing for a mo­ment of si­lence as po­lice ques­tioned the al­leged at­tacker.

More than 100 stu­dents lit can­dles and laid flow­ers in mem­ory of his­tory teacher James Fur­long, who was named as one of the vic­tims. At Holt School in nearby Wok­ing­ham, where he taught, a flag in the court­yard had been low­ered to half-staff.

Fur­long’s friend, Joe Ritchie-Ben­nett, 39, was named by his fam­ily in Philadel­phia as the se­cond vic­tim. The iden­tity of the third vic­tim has not been re­leased.

The stab­bing ram­page took place Satur­day evening as groups of peo­ple re­laxed in For­bury Gar­dens park in Read­ing, a city of 200,000 about 40 miles west of Lon­don. A 25-year-old sus­pect is in cus­tody, but of­fi­cials say the mo­tive for the car­nage is un­clear.

Chief Con­sta­ble John Camp­bell of Thames Val­ley Po­lice said of­fi­cers were called to re­ports of stab­bings just be­fore 7 p.m. and ar­rived to find a “hor­rific” scene. Un­armed of­fi­cers de­tained the sus­pect within five min­utes.

Po­lice have not iden­ti­fied the sus­pect, but Bri­tain’s na­tional news agency, Press As­so­ci­a­tion, and other me­dia out­lets named the al­leged at­tacker as Khairi Saadal­lah, a Libyan asy­lum-seeker liv­ing in Read­ing.

Saadal­lah had been de­pressed and re­ceived psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment be­cause of the chaos in Libya af­ter the NATO-backed upris­ing that top­pled and then killed dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi, a fam­ily mem­ber in Tripoli told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The rel­a­tive said Saadal­lah was born to a wealthy fam­ily in Tripoli. He lived in a villa and went to pri­vate schools in Libya. Though he sup­ported Gad­hafi’s ouster, he be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with the chaotic af­ter­math.

The rel­a­tive, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause she hopes to re­turn to the U.K., said Saadal­lah had lived in Bri­tain since he was 17 and had adopted a Western life­style, with a girl­friend and tat­toos.

The BBC re­ported that Saadal­lah was in­ves­ti­gated by British se­cu­rity ser­vices last year over con­cerns he planned to travel abroad to join a ji­had group, but that he was de­ter­mined not to be a ma­jor threat.

Ques­tions were im­me­di­ately raised about whether he should have been un­der closer watch. But Mark Row­ley, for­mer as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner for spe­cial­ist op­er­a­tions in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice, told the BBC that the task is daunt­ing, given that 40,000 peo­ple have touched the sys­tem.

“And in that 40,000 are lots of volatile peo­ple who dip in and out of in­ter­ests in ex­treme ide­ol­ogy, and to spot one of those who is go­ing to go from a ca­sual in­ter­est into a de­ter­mined at­tacker, which can hap­pen in a mat­ter of days, is the most wicked prob­lem that the ser­vices face,” he said.

Po­lice have two weeks to ques­tion the sus­pect with­out charge be­cause he was ar­rested un­der the Ter­ror­ism

Act. Po­lice warned the peo­ple of Read­ing to ex­pect dis­rup­tion in the com­mu­nity as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues.

The Philadel­phia In­quirer quoted the father of RitchieBen­nett as say­ing his son had moved to Eng­land from the U.S. around 15 years ago. His father, Robert Ritchie, said his son worked for a law firm in Lon­don be­fore tak­ing a job about 10 years ago at a Dutch phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany with British head­quar­ters in Read­ing. He called him an “ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous guy,’’ whom he loved with all his heart.

“We’re mourn­ing, and we’re try­ing to de­cide what we’re go­ing to do,” he told the In­quirer. “It’s 3,500 miles away. They are still in lock­down over there with the coro­n­avirus.”

PRESS AS­SO­CI­A­TION VIA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A mourner is com­forted by a po­lice of­fi­cer as flow­ers are placed at Holt School in Wok­ing­ham, Eng­land, in mem­ory of teacher James Fur­long, a vic­tim of a ter­ror at­tack in nearby Read­ing.

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