The 15-year terror plot: Stoke-born ISIS attacker’s path to terrorism

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Special Report: Benjamin Wareing examines the background of the ISIS-claimed London Bridge attacker born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent and uncovers early signs of radicalisation and extremism

Usman Khan, the 28-year-old suspect that killed two and injured three in the 29 November London Bridge attack, had been involved and exposed to extremism and radicalisation for over 15 years, it is believed.

We can exclusively reveal that in 2004, at just 13-years-old, the London Bridge terror suspect left Haywood High School to stay in Pakistan for a period of time in what he told classmates was a “trip to join Al-Qaeda”.

StaffsLive has uncovered that Khan’s family compound is just a few hours away from a major al-Muhajiroun safe house for Western terrorists in Lahore – and a missing period during his visit to Pakistan may point to him visiting the compound.

Immediately after returning to Stoke, a 14-year-old Khan began street preaching in Stoke-on-Trent with new friend Mohammed Shahjahan – a longtime member of al-Muhajiroun. Shahjahan was arrested and sentenced alongside Khan and seven others in a foiled major terror plot in 2010 which planned to bomb the London Stock Exchange, Stoke pubs and nightclubs, tourist attractions and then-London Mayor Boris Johnson’s address.

The 2010 plot was halted by MI5 and police after two months of surveillance, including bugging Khan’s house on Persia Walk in Stoke-on-Trent with microphones.

Staffordshire Police, counter terror police and forensic officers search the Stafford home of Usman Khan, the London Bridge terror suspect. Saturday 30 November 2019. Copyright: Benjamin Wareing

1991 to 2008: Family, early radicalisation, school ‘terror’ trip to Pakistan, and first police investigation

Usman Khan was born to taxi driver Taj Khan and mother Parveen Begum. He had three elder siblings – two brothers and one sister.

From early 2004 Usman Khan began to show early signs of radicalisation towards his classmates, who at the time thought he was “just being weird” and “joking around”. 

James Dodd, 28, went to the same school as Khan and frequently saw him.

He told StaffsLive: “I always thought he was a very strange and predictable person. In school he always used to say ‘I’ll blow you up’, people never believed him.

“It was that look in his eyes, it was like he wanted to kill – the stare, the hatred running through. I could just tell from that moment this lad just wasn’t right.”

Mr Dodd went on to explain different school incidents with Khan, saying that in around 2005/06, in his final year of school, Khan described “blowing up” and “stabbing” students. StaffsLive understand that in previous incidents within school Khan had assaulted students with sharp objects, including a metal compass and had pushed stools from under classmates.

One classmate who wished to remain anonymous told StaffsLive: “I remember one afternoon in form, he told me he wouldn’t be at the school soon.

“I asked why and he said he was going to Pakistan. He pointed to a picture of Osama Bin Laden inside his school folder and said ‘I’m joining him, I’m joining Al-Qaeda.’

“It’s the most excited I’ve ever seen him, but I just thought he was playing around. I thought it was all a joke since people bullied him saying he looked like a member of Al-Qaeda and it was still soon after 9/11.”

Khan spent the majority of his time in Kashmir, Pakistan with family and cared for his mother when she fell ill. However StaffsLive has discovered the major compound for al-Muhajiroun – used to train and put jihadists in contact with other extremists in their home country – was just a few hours drive from the Khan family compound.

The London Bridge attacker publicly became a member of al-Muhajiroun immediately after his Pakistan visit, StaffsLive has discovered.

A missing period in his visit to Pakistan, based on timelines given by classmates to StaffsLive may point to Khan visiting the safe house.

At the time of his visit to Pakistan, al-Muhajiroun had established a “safe house” for members of the jihadist group from the UK to gather and recruit, in addition to encouraging Islamists from the West to back Al-Qaeda and the Taliban against ISAF forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. The house was run by Manchester brothers Abdeel Shahid and Sajeel Shahid (known as Abu Ibrahim).

If Usman Khan visited the safe house he would have made contact with members of al-Muhajiroun and put in contact with leaders and followers of the jihadist group based in the United Kingdom, including Mohammad Shahjahan, who was already based in Stoke and subscribed to the group, and Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri Muhammad, who he had extensive documented personal contact with later in his life. When he was arrested in 2010, Usman Khan had the personal mobile number of Anjem Choudary and Omar Brooks in his phone.

It is not known if Khan received any form of terror training at the camp if there, and the 2013 appeal judgement specified that none of the Stoke, Cardiff or London defendants are known to have any prior terrorist training or links to foreign proscribed terrorist organisations. The Stoke cell did not mention any prior training or contacts with a proscribed organisation during their recorded group conversation on obtaining terrorist training in Pakistan on 12 December 2010 in Cwm Carnivore’s Country Park near Newport, Wales.

During that meeting Shahjahan and Hussain discussed making terrorist contacts in Bangladesh in order to receive personal training, but there was no evidence provided that any of them had formed terrorist relationships at that time through the 2013 appeal judgement.

Shortly after the period of time Khan may have visited Lahore, the safe house was raided and shut down by Pakistani military forces. On 12 August 2005 then-Home Secretary Charles Clarke banned founder of al-Muhajiroun Omar Bakri Mohammad from the United Kingdom.

It’s understood Usman Khan landed back in the UK and returned to Haywood High School in early or mid-2005, though am exact period of time of his visit to Pakistan is unknown.

StaffsLive understands through multiple classmates that the Pakistan visit lasted anywhere up to one year.

Almost immediately upon landing in the UK his association with known al-Muhajiroun supporters and radicals, including Mohammad Shahjahan and other jihadi extremists, began. Classmates of Khan also recognised an immediate shift in his attitude within school after returning from Pakistan.

James Dodd added: “He definitely [came]back different and started coming out with stuff like ‘[I’m going] to blow you up’ kind of thing.

“He got worse and that’s when I stated to say to friends [that]he’s going to be a terrorist.

“He had evil in him, definitely.”

Preaching across Stoke with Shahjahan on da’wah stalls from 2006 is believed to have introduced Khan to enacting on extremist views and ideologies – namely surrounding causes led and supported by Al-Qaeda and teaching the schoolboy about ISIS which had, only that year, issued a declaration of an Islamic State in Iraq for the first time.

Khan eventually established a regular stall outside the Territorial Army centre in Cobridge, handed out and preached on al-Muhajiroun backed material and frequented the area with multiple people confirming they saw Khan in the area with friends and associates.

Da’wah stalls served as proselytisation, with the aim of inviting people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to understand the worship of God as expressed through the Qur’an and to teach about Muhammad. However, the stalls hosted by Shahjahan and shared with Khan served to radicalise Muslim followers and convert non-Muslims to their cause.

Witnesses of these early stalls, including former classmates of Khan’s, recall seeing black ISIS flags draped across their tables. The flag, now a recognisable part of ISIS and a symbol of terrorism worldwide, was designed in 2006 and as such wasn’t instantly recognisable to the public. Before being associated with radical extremism, it was associated with radical Islamic preaching on stalls like Khan and Shahjahan’s.

Khan was now publicly an al-Muhajiroun activist alongside Shahjahan, Mohibur Rahman and Nazam Hussain and all four hosted regular da’wah stalls selling Islamic literature, leaflets, CDs and DVDs through 2006 until 2008. They subsequently became well known for their conflicts with members of the English Defence League (EDL) and their public poppy-burning during Remembrance ceremonies. 

al-Muhajiroun and its later rebranding Islam4UK became a proscribed terror group in January 2010.

Supporters of the proscribed al-Muhajiroun group have been behind several high profile attacks across the UK, including the 2017 London Bridge attack, the 7/7 London bombings and the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Police believe that the gang drew inspiration from radical cleric Abu Hamza and mirrored hate preacher Anjem Choudary with poppy burning and aggressive, militant public campaigning with the aim of influencing vulnerable members of Stoke’s Muslim community.

Khan had known Hussain since they were children as their families had lived in the same village in Kashmir, and the two shared an interest in public preaching from a young age. Hussain was also a known al-Muhajiroun activist and was charged and sentenced alongside Khan in the 2010 failed plot.

Former schoolmates explained that Khan would experience bullying at Haywood High School in Burslem, Stoke as one of the only Muslim students in attendance and for growing facial hair at an early age. They outlined repeated attempts by Khan to fit in by wearing designer, Western clothes. Neighbours at his most recent address in Stafford, after his December 2018 release from prison, described a similar dress style for Khan – he would be spotted walking around the area of his house on Wolverhampton Road in western clothes, including tracksuits and bright Timberland boots.

Another classmate of Khan’s, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told StaffsLive: “He was always in big groups, 30-40 at a time, and that only really started after he came back from Pakistan. He was more confident, it’s strange.

“He had a picture of Bin Laden on the front of his school planner, and openly joked and laughed while watching terror attacks on his phone, like the 9/11 videos.”

StaffsLive asked Haywood Academy, which took over from Haywood High School from the local authority in 2012, whether there were any red flags against Khans record.

They said: “Haywood Academy retains records for individual students to the age of 25 years, in line with our retention policy.

“As such, we have no record of Usman Khan.”

By autumn 2007 Staffordshire Police had received reports from concerned members of the public surrounding the material Khan, Shahjahan, Rahman and Hussain were passing out, and fears that the group were attempting to radicalise vulnerable members of the local Muslim community mounted. StaffsLive believe this was Khan’s first involvement with the police and the autumn 2007 investigation into the Stoke Da’wah stalls was the first time he was personally investigated.

The aggressive and controversial public stalls continued until mid-2008, with Khan now having a permanent association with Shahjahan, Rahman and Hussain.

Officers remove evidence bags from the house of London Bridge terror suspect Usman Khan’s house in Stafford. Saturday 30 November 2019. Copyright: Benjamin Wareing

2008 to 2010: Police raid, BBC interviews and continued exposure to jihadi extremism

After months of high profile preaching across Stoke and outside the Territorial Army Centre in Cobridge Staffordshire Police launched a series of raids on properties linked to the group on 1 July 2008, including three houses in Cobridge, one in Smallthorne and one in Tunstall under the Terrorism Act. Police also seized four vehicles linked to the group.

Though none of the group were arrested during these raids, a police spokesman said they had recovered a “significant amount” of property, including radical literature, documents and computers from the houses. They said the raids were prompted by concern from within the local community, and that the searches were the “latest stage of the force’s investigation to resolve them and help establish the facts”.

The operation was a major one for Staffordshire Police and attracted nationwide media attention, as well as criticism that the raids were racially motivated. Two thousands leaflets were subsequently distributed by police to residents outlining the operation, as well as an informational DVD sent to around 400 homes.

Local residents told the BBC at the time that the raids had been “low-key”.

In a recorded interview with BBC Midlands Today shortly after the raids, Usman Khan said: “I’ve been born and bred in England, in Stoke-on-Trent, in Cobridge and all the community knows me, and they will know, if you ask them, they will know these labels what they’re putting on us, like ‘terrorist’, like this, that, they will know.

“I ain’t no terrorist.”

The group insisted their activities had always been entirely legal and peaceful, and denied any links to terrorism or extremism. They had also argued that one of their main purposes for preaching was to draw young people away from drugs and gangs, something heavily disputed now.

While the police were examining the documents and electronics seized during the raids, the group of Khan, Shahjahan, Rahman and Hussain maintained a relatively low profile, however kept engaged with al-Muhajiroun linked events and followers, including contact with Anjem Choudary as the group relaunched in 2009 under the alias ‘Islam4UK’.

The relaunched group described itself as having “been established by sincere Muslims as a platform to propagate the supreme Islamic ideology within the United Kingdom as a divine alternative to man-made law” to “convince the British public about the superiority of Islam, thereby changing public opinion in favour of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power to the Muslims in order to implement the Sharia [across Britain]”.

In March 2009 the group demonstrated against the war in Afghanistan in Luton at the same time the Royal Anglian Regiment marched through the town after a tour of duty. The demonstrations sparked counter protests from a group called the United Peoples of Luton – a group that became the English Defence League (EDL).

On 4 January 2010 the Stoke group, including Usman Khan, pledged their support for a planned Islam4UK march through Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire at a specially-arranged protest outside the Territorial Army barracks and a mosque in Cobridge.

The rally, which lasted for just an hour, saw the group hand out leaflets attacking the war in Afghanistan and CDs containing information about Islam with the intent on converting.

Shouting into a megaphone and waving an Al-Qaeda flag, Khan said: “we want to educate people.”

Usman Khan was photographed beside Anjem Choudary at a conference on Sharia Law held in Stoke-on-Trent in March 2009. He used his alias Abu Said when speaking alongside his ‘personal friend’

Witnesses to this protest tell StaffsLive that Khan seemed excited and eager to carry out the controversial Wootton Bassett protest that would have seen radical Islamists carry coffins and images of dead children through the streets.

Just 10 days later the protest was called off by Islam4UK in a press release posted on their website, saying: “We at Islam4UK have decided, after consultation with others including our Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, that no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett and in light of this we would like to announce today that there will no longer be a procession through this market town.”

Forensic officers search the windows of the Stafford home believed to belong to London Bridge terror suspect Usman Khan. Saturday 30 November 2019. Copyright: Benjamin Wareing

2010: Terror plot to cripple the country

By this point, the Stoke-on-Trent group had come to learn of two similar groups across the country; Mohammed Chowdry and Shah Rahman as part of the London group, and Abdul Miah, Omar Latif and Gurukanth Desai as part of the Cardiff group.

In October the three groups began to merge, with Mohammed Chowdry taking lead in the merging of the groups. The three groups then meet for the first time on 7 November at Roath Park Lake, a Victorian boating lake in Cardiff. All men, except Shah Rahman and Nazam Hussain, were present.

Khan, Shahjahan and Mohibur Rahman drove to meet up with the Cardiff group while Chowdry travelled to the meeting by coach from London.

Before and during the meeting the merged group took extensive steps to avoid surveillance, through avoiding conversations near buildings or inside cars, and only discussed their plans while walking through the park. Despite these steps, security services monitored the meeting for three and a half hours in what prosecutors described as an “exploratory meeting” to discuss jihadist ideologies.

After the first meeting Khan and the other Stoke members continued forward with, as the judge described, “their plans to establish and recruit for a terrorist military training facility under the cover of madrassa and land owned by Usman Khan’s family” in Kashmir, Pakistan.

The Stoke group looked towards the London and Cardiff groups to help them raise funds to establish and maintain the planned terror camp in Kashmir which aimed to entice Western jihadists to train, ready to attack targets in their home country – such as the UK and United States. Khan and Hussain planned to fly to the proposed site in Kashmir in January 2011 with Shahjahan remaining in the UK to recruit and organise.

On 28 November the London and Cardiff groups met separately from the Stoke group to, as described by the judge, “consider potential targets and develop a plan to launch an attack with explosives in the UK.”

Between 4 and 5 December Khan was recorded outlining the long-term potential of the camp, including its ability to produce ‘graduates’ to fight within Kashmir to impose Sharia law and to return to the UK to commit acts of terrorism, akin to what the group had planned themselves.

Khan said that he saw only three possible outcomes: “There’s victory, what we hope for, there’s Shahada [martyrdom], or there’s prison.”

Khan, Shahjahan and Hussain met in person on 11 December where Shahjahan spoke with Chowdry on the phone. The three groups, excluding Mohibur Rahman and Shah Rahman, then met for the third and final time at Cwm Carnivore’s Country Park near Newport in Wales. Here the large group discussed how to advance their plans for an attack, believed to be imminent. The group had a two-way split, while operating as a larger cell, with the London and Cardiff cells discussing an imminent attack in London and the Stoke cell talking through their long-term terror training plan in Kashmir.

In what the prosecution described as evidence of hierarchy, the London and Cardiff group gave the Khan and the Stoke group £2850 as initial funding for the Kashmir camp, discussing further funding arrangements in the process. Miah and Chowdry also planned the possibility of a “Mumbai-style” attack in London, mirroring the 2008 terror attack that saw 174 killed and more than 300 injured.

At the Newport park the group were observed by security services reading from pieces of paper and praying together. One of the pieces of paper is believed to have been a target list later found in Chowdry’s home including the London Stock Exchange, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, two rabbis, the US embassy in London, and then-London Mayor Boris Johnson.

From 12 to 15 December, Khan, Shahjahan and Mohibur Rahman were recorded by security services discussing the targeting of pubs and clubs in Stoke-on-Trent by leaving explosive devices in the venue toilets, designed not to kill, but to cause mass panic and confusion. The group also discussed their planned Kashmir terror training camp in more detail.

The plan was to cause death, panic, religious division, and to cripple the countries financial system with the plot against the London Stock Exchange.

The men were followers of the Yemeni-American al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who was a key contributor to the magazines first online English-speaking publication, Inspire. The publications first edition was published in July 2010 and contained an article titled ‘Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom’ with instructions that were referenced to by Khan on 15 December 2010.

Through the publications second edition, released in October 2010, al-Awlaki criticised the Mardin Declaration, which issued a ruling collectively penned by international Islamic scholars in March 2010 completely refuting the justification in Islamic law for AQAP’s actions. Both of these positions were talked about during their first 7 November 2010 meeting, with the men agreeing on and favouring al-Awlaki’s stance on what he argues is the theological legitimacy of violence in Islamic law.

On 19 December, after hearing the London cell discussing detailed bomb-making instructions, the security services determined that “an act of violence using a pipe bomb was imminent” and the entire group were arrested the following morning in a major coordinated counter terror raid.

A note written by Shahjahan found in Khan’s house outlined the structure of the terror cell, with Shahjahan writing “me” at the top of the page.

All of the men originally pleaded not guilty to their charges, including possessing information likely to be useful for terrorism, conspiring to cause an explosion and preparing for acts of terrorism. Following lengthy pre-trial hearings the London defendants requested a ‘Goodyear’ hearing which, if granted on the prosecutions agreement, would allow the defendants an indication of likely maximum sentences should they plead guilty.

After hearing the London defendants would not receive an indeterminate sentence if pleading guilty, all of the defendants pleaded guilty to specific offences based on their personal, individual involvements in the plot. Controversially, the explosive charge, which was made against all nine men, was ordered to lie on file and was not pursued further.

An officer searches the wall and door of a property linked to London Bridge suspect Usman Khan in Stafford. Saturday 30 November 2019. Copyright: Benjamin Wareing

2012 and 2013: Sentencing and appeal

Alongside Shahjahan and Hussain, Usman Khan pleaded guilty to a revised count 9, namely by “travelling to and attending operational meetings, fund raising for terrorist training, preparing to travel abroad, or to assist others to travel abroad, to engage in training for acts of terrorism” they had engaged in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.

Of the Stoke cell, the judge accepted their plan to target pubs and clubs in the area had not materialised in the same manner as the London cell’s plan to target London-based targets, nor were the Stoke group involved in the London and Cardiff group’s London target plans. The judge believed that the 7 November and 12 December meetings were, instead, an opportunity for Khan, Shahjahan and Hussain to raise funds and find recruits for their proposed training camps.

Through mitigation, Khan’s defence maintained that the proposed Kashmir camp had not been built and that, as of the time of arrest, the men had only raised a few thousand pounds towards the camps establishment.

Khan’s defence also referenced his age and an indicator that the terror plot would have been “unlikely” to have succeeded, though the judge disagreed and referred to the Stoke defendants as the “pre-eminent” cell of the wider group.

Despite the Goodyear hearing, the judge found that the Stoke offence was “a rather long term and sophisticated plan” that constituted a “significant risk to public safety” and Imposed indefinite sentences – Khan received a minimum term of eight years. In contrast to this sentence, the London and Cardiff cells received determinate sentences ranging from 10 years 4 months to 16 years 10 months.

On 15 October 2012 while imprisoned in HMP Belmarsh Khan penned a letter to the Home Office requisition deradicalisation courses.

He wrote: “As you are fully aware of my offence, which is a terrorism offence, it relates more to what I intended and the mindset at that time, also the views I carried. Which I realise now after spending some time to think were not according to Islam and it’s teachings.

“I would be grateful if you could arrange some kind of course, that I can do where I can properly learn Islam and it’s teachings, and I can prove I don’t carry the extreme views which I might have carried before.

“I have been inform [sic]there are courses like this, like the deradicalisation course which is approved by the home office. I would like to do such a course, so I can prove to the authorities, my family and [society][sic]in general that I don’t carry the views I had before my arrest and also I can prove that at the time I was immature, and now I am much more mature and want to live my life as a good Muslim and also a good citizen of Britian [sic].

“So if you could arrange something for me and send me the detials [sic], this would be truly appreciated.”

In April 2013 Usman Khan, Mohammad Shahjahan, Mohibur Rahman and Nazam Hussain successfully appealed their sentencing against the implementation of an indeterminate sentence, with the Court of Appeal substituting Khan’s indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of eight years and 10 months, with a maximum of 16 years and a five-year extended licence period.

Police taped off the area surrounding a property on Wolverhampton Road in Stafford linked to London Bridge terror suspect Usman Khan. 30 November 2019. Copyright: Benjamin Wareing

2018: Release from prison

In December 2018 Usman Khan was released from HMP Belmarsh on licence, subject to a variety of forms of management and monitoring in the community, including the wearing of a sophisticated live GPS ankle tag to monitor his specific movements, being sent to a bail hostel on Wolverhampton Road in Stafford, Staffordshire where his comings and goings could be supervised and monitored (the building had extensive CCTV), it’s believed he was banned from speaking with former associates – many of which are in the area in Staffordshire, including in Cobridge and Stoke, and obliged to take part in the governments ‘Desistance and Disengagement Programme’.

Mohibur Rahman, one of Khan’s Stoke terror cell associates, participated in a deradicalisation course while in prison, but subsequently met other terrorists inside.

Soon after Mohibur Rahman was released, he was jailed for life for his role in a plot to carry out a vehicle and knife attack in Birmingham, reminiscent of the 2017 Borough Market attack.

Its believed Khan moved into the property immediately after release from prison, though neighbours inside the house told StaffsLive he was not seen too often.

A former resident who wishes to remain anonymous over fears of their safety, who used to live in the same building as the London Bridge attacker, said: “I only ever saw him a few times when I got locked outside the building.

“I got locked out after moving the bins and pressed his flat buzzer to let me back in, but when I saw the picture of him on Facebook [after the attack]it looked nothing like him.

“When I saw him he didn’t have a beard. He was clean shaven.”

When asked if they had said anything to them when letting her in, the former resident told StaffsLive: “He didn’t say anything.”

They said they last saw Khan five days prior to the attack.

Another local resident who wished to remain anonymous told StaffsLive of their shock at the news after the attack.

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 – the corner shop 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.”

Usman Khan began his involvement with the Learning Together programme and rehabilitation group in 2018, and upon his release was gifted a secure non-networked Chromebook laptop that the group had raised money for through a charity 10-mile run.

In a press release graphic released by Learning Together at the time the group said: “One of our students was released from prison in December, but because of his licence conditions, he couldn’t have easy access to computers and so was finding it difficult to progress his learning.

“Working alongside Corale, our digital partners, and with the probation and police team, we have been able to provide our student with a secure non-networked Chromebook that he can use to study and develop his writing while complying with his licence terms.”

Khan wrote Learning Together a thank you note on receipt of the laptop, saying: “Learning Together has a special place in my heart.”

He also included a poem its believed he wrote: “I write so my words become a soothing light, I write so I can enter the coldest of hearts, I write so I can speak to those locked off, From the world engulfed in the blinding absence of sight, I write so I can express what I feel is right.”

He was pictured smiling and laughing with members of the team in front of the laptop.

Usman Khan (circled) captured in surveillance images by security services during his 2010 terror plot, including plans to create a jihadist camp in Kashmir and to plant bombs in Stoke pubs.

2019: The London Bridge attack

It’s understood that through his work with Learning Together and apparent progress towards deradicalisation Usman Khan was granted permission by parole and police teams monitoring the convicted terrorist with the understanding that he would attend the event the group was hosting in London on 29 November 2019.

He was attending an offender rehabilitation conference in Fishmonger’s Hall by London Bridge when he threatened to detonate a suicide vest he was wearing – which later turned out to be a hoax device – before attacking people with two knives taped to his wrists.

Khan killed two of the conference participants.

Jack Merritt, 25 years old, was a law and criminology graduate and University of Cambridge administration officer. Merritt served as a course co-ordinator for Learning Together, and was working with the group during the attack.

His dad, David Merritt, wrote: “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences for detaining people unnecessarily.

“RIP Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog.”

Serena Wright, a lecturer in criminology at Royal Holloway University, responded to David’s tweet writing: “David, I knew your son through Learning Together and I loved him to pieces – he was the sweetest, most caring and selfless individual I’ve ever met. The warmest heart, always with time for anyone. Completely irreplaceable – I will mourn his loss greatly and honour his memory.”

Jack Merritt has been described as a “beautiful spirit”. Image courtesy of the family of Jack Merritt.

Saskia Jones, 23 years old, was a former University of Cambridge student from Stratford-upon-Avon. She was volunteering at the event at the time of the attack for Learning Together.

In a statement Ms Jones’ family said: “Saskia was a funny, kind, positive influence at the centre of many people’s lives.

“She had a wonderful sense of mischievous fun and was generous to the point of always wanting to see the best in all people.

“She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.

“This is an extremely painful time for the family. Saskia will leave a huge void in our lives and we would request that our privacy is fully respected.”

Saskia Jones has been described as “a funny, kind, positive influence”. Image courtesy of the family of Saskia Jones.

Cambridge University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen J Troope said: “What should have been a joyous opportunity to celebrate the achievements of this unique and socially transformative programme, hosted by our Institute of Criminology, was instead disrupted by an unspeakable criminal act.

“Among the three people injured, whose identities have not been publicly released, is a member of university staff.

“Our university condemns this abhorrent and senseless act of terror.”

He added: “I have profound sadness for the families.

“This is an attack on our community and it was intended, in such, to produce a form of terror and sadness – and it has clearly done that.”

On Sunday night Staffordshire police said a 34-year-old man was arrested in connection with a “review of existing licence conditions of convicted terrorism offenders”.

The male arrested has been identified widely as Nazam Hussain, one of the original Stoke terror cell that was charged alongside Usman Khan in the foiled 2010 terror plot. Staffordshire Police added there was no information to suggest the man was involved in the London Bridge attack.

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