London terrorist was being followed by authorities when he attacked

Yesterday afternoon on Streatham High Road in London, a terrorist stabbed two pedestrians. While initial reports suggested their wounds may be life-threatening, subsequent information indicates that their live are, fortunately, not in jeopardy.

Press reports quickly identified the stabber as Sudesh Amman, a 20-year-old whose radical beliefs were well-known to authorities. Amman had been imprisoned for terror-related offenses and was slated to serve three years. But he was released early in late January after doing only about half that time behind bars.

According to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) of the Metropolitan Police Service Lucy D’Orsi, Amman was being followed on foot by armed officers as “part of a proactive counter-terrorism surveillance operation.”

The counter-terrorism detail quickly shot him dead after he started stabbing at civilians at around 2pm in the afternoon London time.

DAC D’Orsi explained that Amman had been imprisoned for “Islamist-related terrorism offenses.” He was wearing a “hoax device” that was evidently intended to confuse authorities and others.

But the security detail called in “specialist explosives officers and additional armed officers to deal with the potential threat that” the device posed. They quickly determined it was a fake explosive device.

Three people were hospitalized as a result of the attack, two of whom Amman assaulted and a third was wounded “by glass following the discharge of the police firearm,” according to DAC D’Orsi.

Earlier today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the stabbings, describing Amman as one of its fighters. The claim, issued by the group’s Amaq News Agency, can be seen above. The language it employs is consistent with a string of other claims issued by Amaq since 2014, as Amman supposedly lashed out in response to the former caliphate’s calls to strike civilians living in the countries belonging to the coalition that was formed to fight the jihadists in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

The Islamic State’s first spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, initiated those calls and oversaw a series of attacks in the West as part of the campaign. In the years since Adnani’s death in August 2016, the group has continued to call for individual jihadists to strike.

Thus far, the Islamic State hasn’t produced any concrete details tying its members to Amman. It is possible that he made contact online with the group, but that is yet to be determined. Authorities have discovered virtual ties in a number of cases across Europe and elsewhere. These attacks have been called “remote-controlled” operations, as the Islamic State’s henchmen act as online guides for individuals and small cells.

The UK authorities are currently searching for additional evidence at two residential addresses tied to Amman.

In addition, Amman previously professed his allegiance to the one-time caliphate. The Independent (UK) reported in Dec. 2018 that Amman had made his intent to commit a terror attack known, and had also declared his fealty to the Islamic State. Moreover, Amman had “encouraged his girlfriend to behead her own parents.”

Yesterday’s stabbings are just the latest small-scale attack in London to be claimed by the Islamic State. On Nov. 29, 2019, Usman Khan slashed and stabbed at pedestrians on London Bridge, killing two people. Khan’s jihadist beliefs were also well-established. Khan, too, had been jailed after it was learned that he and others were planning attacks inspired by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Islamic State claimed that he was its “fighter” at the time of the assault. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Islamic State claims attack in London by al Qaeda-inspired terrorist.]

Khan’s stabbing spree wasn’t the first attack on London Bridge to be claimed by the Islamic State. In June 2017, the group issued a statement saying that a “unit” of its “fighters” carried out a joint vehicular-knife assault on pedestrians on London Bridge and at the nearby Borough Market. Like Khan and now Amman, at least one of those three terrorists, Khuram Shazad Butt, was well-known to authorities beforehand. The Islamic State has claimed other attacks in the UK as well.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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