At 1:58pm on 29th November 2019, two members of the public were fatally stabbed and another three people were injured in a terrorist attack on London Bridge. The attack was very closely located to the previous London Bridge attack in 2017.
The perpetrator, Usman Khan, a 28 year-old British national of Pakistani background was released from prison in December 2018 after serving only half a sentence for previous terrorist offences. These offences included a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange, inspired by Al Qaeda. The police and M15 disrupted the plot in 2012.
On the day of the recent attack, Usman Khan was attending a conference on offender rehabilitation in Fishmongers’ Hall, at the northern end of London Bridge, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Learning Together programme. The programme is run by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, which helps offenders reintegrate into society following their release from prison.
The city of London Police were called to Fishmongers’ Hall after Khan, wearing a fake suicide vest, threatened to detonate himself. Khan instead started attacking people with two knives taped to his wrists, killing two of the conference participants. Several people were injured before members of the public and other attendees fought back, some attacking Khan with a fire extinguisher as he fled the building. He then emerged onto London Bridge where he was partially disarmed by a plain-clothes police officer, and then restrained by members of the public until additional police officers arrived. Usman Khan was then shot down by police on the bridge pier, and died at the scene.
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, returned to Downing Street following the incident. Johnson commended the “immense bravery” of the emergency services and members of the public, and claimed that anyone involved in the attack would be “hunted down”. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, thanked the emergency services and members of the public who helped to restrain the attacker, saying they had shown “breathtaking heroism”.
Usman Khan’s lawyer, Vajahat Sharif, told CNN he was “completely shocked” that his former client carried out Friday’s attack, as he had seen signs from him over the years of a desire to veer away from radicalism, and believed that he no longer shared the same radical and extremist thoughts he once did.
Khan’s killing spree has prompted calls for longer sentences for serious criminals, with Boris Johnson stating “people convicted of terrorism offences should not be allowed out of prison early, it just does not make sense for us as a society.”
However, Usman Khan’s lawyer instead suggests that de-radicalisation support whilst in custody is crucial, and in fact Usman Khan did ask for such services. Sharif explained, however, that these types of services are not usually offered during the custodial time, and that the system could benefit from reviewing its position regarding the de-radicalisation process.
As Sara Khan (lead commissioner for countering extremism within the UK) said, “extremism needs to be taken much more seriously and dealt with in a more sophisticated way.” In the Australian Counter Terrorism Strategy, the need for partnership between the private sector, government and communities is emphasised in countering the terrorism threat. However, the most effective responses for mitigating the threat of terrorism are multifaceted. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) explains terrorism is a “dynamic area for policy”, where effective measures must involve serious improvement with complex responses. The ASPI suggests the government can add value to the local cause, facilitating and supporting stakeholders, although the most effective measures against terrorism will be at a community level.
Predicting a terrorist attack can sometimes be impossible, however having a plan can critically aid in mitigating the threat and potentially saving lives. It can take time and experience to understand what role counter-terrorism plays in your business, and how you can become involved in mitigating the threat. Here at Agilient our experts are highly trained in determining the best plan for your unique business. Contact us to find out how Agilient can help your business through counter-terrorism consulting.
Author: Jasmin Harvey, Agilient Consultant