Staffordshire Police and specialist counter-terror units are searching a flat they believe is linked to the London Bridge terror suspect Usman Khan.
The terror attack yesterday (29 November 2019) saw two people murdered and at least three more seriously injured, before Khan – who was wearing a hoax explosive vest – was shot and killed by armed police on the scene after a struggle with bystanders shortly before 2pm. ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack.
One of the victims has been named as 25-year-old University of Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt.
Sharon Jones is a local resident who saw police at the address on Wolverhampton Road shortly after the attack.
She told StaffsLive: “I was walking past yesterday and I noticed that there was a police presence.
“With the tape and the two policemen on the door it was quite significant for me, I assumed there had been some sort of serious incident that had gone on, like a murder or something.
“I’m quite alarmed to hear that today it may be linked to what’s happened on London Bridge.”
Mrs Jones told StaffsLive that police had been seen at the address by around 5pm on the evening of the attack – just three hours after it took place.
Mr Khan was found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism, including plots to fund terror training camps in Pakistan, to target Stoke pubs with explosives, and to attack the London Stock Exchange in 2010. The name and address of Boris Johnson, now Prime Minister, was written among targets by the terror group.
Khan was initially given an inderterminate sentence in 2012 after MI5 and the police foiled the 2010 plot, however in 2013 this was replaced with a fixed term of eight years minimum of a 16-year sentence. He was released from prison in December 2018.
A local resident who wished to remain anonymous told StaffsLive how worried he was about the incident.
They said: “I’ve walked past him many times, to think he could have had the knife on him, that vest under his jacket, right next to me is so worrying.
“If he wanted to cause harm, he could have targeted any of us. There are children all around here, mothers, young lads. Any one of us could have been his victim.
“I heard he was arrested on a plot to blow up Stoke-on-Trent pubs. There’s a pub right next door to him, I dread to think what he would have done there.”
Asked about their personal experiences with Mr Khan, the resident said: “I’ve walked past him many times, he goes to the shops fairly regularly – Tesco was his main one.
“He didn’t seem fully normal, never smiled or said ‘hi’, and a few times he looked towards me with a weird sort of face – like a face of disgust or extreme anger, I just thought he was odd that’s all.
“Knowing what he’s done now, it just creeps me out the way he looked at me those times.”
Police and anti-terror squads could be seen entering and leaving the house often, carrying full evidence bags and heavy boxes. Tents and barriers were set up to maintain the integrity of the active scene.
Forensic crews have been sweeping the house and surrounding area throughout the day, starting with the property garden before moving inside the house, occasionally being seen searching windows and curtains or blinds.
A large police cordon is still in place around the house, including a length of pavement and the length of an alleyway adjacent to Wolverhampton Road.
Callum Wilkes, 21, lives across the road from the house being searched. He told StaffsLive: “It’s a bit too close for comfort for my liking.
“It’s a shame that [the attack]was caused by someone who came from Stafford, and it’s a bit disconcerting that he was just 30-seconds from my door.
“Fingers crossed it won’t happen again, I’ve never known anything like it in Stafford before. Touch wood it won’t happen again.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a COBRA meeting late Friday night and released a statement condemning the attack while praising members of the public who tackled the suspected jihadist and emergency services as “the very best of our country”.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police said: “The investigation into the attack near London Bridge continues at a pace.
“While we are still in the early stages of the investigation, at this time we are not actively seeking anyone else in relation to the attack.
“Police were called at 13.58hrs to a stabbing at premises near to London Bridge, EC1. Emergency services attended, including officers from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police.
“A male suspect was shot by specialist armed officers and I can confirm that he died at the scene.”
The Metropolitan Police today confirmed that there was no evidence to suggest further suspects were involved in the attack, while the NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens provided an update on those injured in the incident.
He said: “We are pleased to be able to report that the condition of the patient who was critically injured in the terrible events at London Bridge yesterday has now improved.
“While three people remain in hospital, this means two are now stable and a third has less serious injuries.”
Various residents who turned out to watch the police investigation told reporters about how Mr Khan was often spotted walking through the area but never stopped to talk.
It is understood Mr Khan was a supporter of various Al-Qaeda and jihadist terror groupds, including al-Muhijaroun, an extremist group with dozens of terrorists involved according to anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate.
In the foiled 2010 plot, Mr Khan and 8 other accomplices had planned to bomb multiple targets across the UK, including nightclubs and pubs in Stoke-on-Trent, the London Stock Exchange, Royal Mail, tourist attractions including Big Ben and the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the names and addresses of two rabbis, the Dean of St Paul’s, the American embassy, and the name and address of Boris Johnson – then London Mayor of two years.