British officials publicly identified today two of the alleged terrorists responsible for the June 3 attacks on the London Bridge and Borough Market. The Metropolitan Police released photos of the men (seen above), identifying them as Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane.
The two were shot dead by armed officers at Borough Market after exiting a van that was used to ram pedestrians on the bridge. Along with a third accomplice, who has not been named and was also killed at the market, they began wildly stabbing people before being subdued just eight minutes after authorities were called in.
“While formal identification has yet to take place, detectives believe they now know the attackers’ identities,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. “They believe two of the men are Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane, both from Barking, east London.”
Butt, a 27-year-old, was born in Pakistan and became a British citizen. The 30-year-old Redouane “claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan,” but “also used the name Rachid Elkhdar, with a different date of birth.”
Seven people were killed in the attacks, and 48 others were hospitalized. Eighteen remain “in a critical condition,” according to authorities.
Butt was well-known to counterterrorism officials. According to the Guardian, Butt was “associated with al-Muhajiroun,” an extremist group that has been banned in the UK. Al-Muhajiroun was led by Anjem Choudary, a notorious British extremist.
In March, the State Department added Choudary to the US government’s list of designated terrorists, noting his “links to convicted terrorists and extremist networks in the UK.” Foggy Bottom explained that Choudary pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Sept. 2014, which led to his arrest. Choudary was “acting as a key figure in ISIS’ recruitment drive” and has vowed “he will continue his recruitment activities from prison,” State said.
The Islamic State claims that its “fighters” were responsible for the London attacks.
In 2016, Butt appeared in a Channel 4 documentary titled, “The Jihadis Next Door.” The documentary showed Butt (seen below) praying in Regent’s Park alongside fellow extremists, including Mohammed Shamsuddin, who was described as a “close student of Omar Bakri” Mohammed. Shamsuddin, the prayer group’s ringleader, was proud of the relationship.
Omar Bakri was an influential figure in both Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, which he co-founded along with Choudary. For years, reports connected Omar Bakri to al Qaeda. For example, according to The New York Times, he warned in 2004 that “a very well-organized” al Qaeda-linked group was “on the verge of launching a big operation” in London. The July 7, 2005 bombings were orchestrated by al Qaeda in northern Pakistan, relying on local extremist networks.
Omar Bakri eventually left the UK for Lebanon, where he was reportedly imprisoned. But his students, including Mohammed Shamsuddin, continued to preach their ideology in and around London. During the Channel 4 documentary, Butt was seen unfurling a black banner generally associated with jihadis. Policemen stopped Butt, Shamsuddin, and some of their comrades after the prayer group disbanded. Authorities responded to calls concerning the flag used in the park, and Shamsuddin was shown objecting to a policeman’s request to search one of his comrades.
Other members of Shamsuddin’s group included an extremist known as Abu Haleema. Authorities subsequently tied Abu Haleema to a “teenage jihadi” who allegedly planned to conduct a beheading in Australia, according to the Guardian.
In another scene in the documentary, Shamsuddin and Abu Haleema laugh at beheading videos posted online by the Islamic State. Another one of their fellow extremists, a jihadi known as Abu Rumaysah (a.k.a. Siddhartha Dhar), joined the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria and is suspected of serving as an executioner for the group.
The Channel 4 documentary showed local Muslims clashing with Shamsuddin, Abu Haleema and their extremist friends. Men visiting a mosque nearly came to fisticuffs with them. Multiple reports indicate that concerned citizens had identified both Butt and Redouane as potential threats.
UK officials are clearly sensitive to the charge that warning signs were missed.
Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, pointed to the large number of possible threats that are being investigated at any given time.
“The police and our partners are doing everything we can across the country to help prevent further attacks and protect the public from harm,” Rowley said in a statement. “At any one time MI5 and police are conducting around 500 active investigations, involving 3,000 subjects of interest.”
“Additionally,” Rowley continued, “there are around 20,000 individuals who are former subjects of interest, whose risk remains subject to review by MI5 and its partners.”
Rowley added that “security and intelligence services and police have stopped 18 plots since 2013, including five since the Westminster attack two months ago.”
British officials have repeatedly pointed to these figures — including the 23,000 current and former “subjects of interest” — since the Manchester Arena bombing in late May.
The police arrested twelve people in connection with their investigation into the London attacks, but authorities announced today that all of them were released without charge.