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Sat, 30 Nov 2019 14:22 - Updated Sat, 30 Nov 2019 14:22

London attacker released last year after terrorism offenses, prompting recriminations

LONDON - The 28-year-old British man who killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge before police shot him dead had been released from prison after a previous conviction for terrorism offenses, prompting recriminations ahead of an election.

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Wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, Usman Khan went on the rampage on Friday afternoon at a conference on criminal rehabilitation beside London Bridge. He was wrestled to the ground by bystanders and then shot dead by police.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has called a snap election for Dec. 12 and is due to host NATO leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump next week, said it was a terrorist attack and that Britain would never be cowed.

Khan, whose family is from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, was convicted in 2012 for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange. He was released in December 2018 subject to conditions.

“This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offenses,” Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, said in a statement. “Clearly, a key line of inquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

Two people - a man and a woman - were killed in the attack. In addition, a man and two women were injured and remain in hospital, Basu said.

Queen Elizabeth sent her sympathies to those affected by the attack.

“I have been saddened to hear of the terror attacks at London Bridge,” she said. “We send our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones and who have been affected by yesterday’s terrible violence.”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which trails the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, criticized the government’s record on crime on Saturday as police continued their investigation.

“There are big questions that need to be answered,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the most senior opposition politician in Britain in a position of power, told Sky News.

“One of the important tools judges had when it came to dealing with dangerous, convicted criminals... was their ability to give an indeterminate sentence to protect the public,” he said. “(That) was taken away from them by this government.”  Reuters

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