Terror checks intensified as London enters election fray
Britain’s Boris Johnson said yesterday the security services were stepping up monitoring of convicted terrorists released early from prison, as the London Bridge attack became embroiled in the election campaign. The prime minister revealed around 74 people with terrorist convictions had been released early from prison in a similar way to Usman Kan, who left jail last December and went on to stab two people to death in Friday’s rampage.
“They are being properly invigilated to make sure there is no threat,” Johnson told the BBC in an interview. “We’ve taken a lot of action as you can imagine in the last 48 hours,” he said, adding he would not provide “operation details”. Khan, 28, was shot dead while wearing a fake explosives vest by police on London Bridge after a stabbing spree that also injured three people launched at a nearby prisoner rehabilitation event he was attending.
Members of the public were hailed as heroes for preventing even greater loss of life by tackling him -- one armed with a five-foot (1.5-metre) narwhal tusk and another with a fire extinguisher. Police, who on Saturday searched two properties in central England believed to be linked to Khan, have said they believe he was acting alone and are not seeking anybody else. But the Islamic State group has released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
‘Keep you safe’
Khan, a British national, had been handed an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public in 2012, with at least eight years in prison. He was part of an eight-man network inspired by Al-Qaeda who had plotted to bomb targets including the London Stock Exchange, and planned to take part in “terrorist training” in Pakistan. But his sentence was quashed by the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he received a new 21- year term, comprising a custodial sentence of 16 years and five years on conditional release.
He had then been conditionally released from jail last December under so-called licensing conditions after serving around half of his jail term. Khan has become a contentious political issue ahead of Britain’s December 12 election, with Johnson blaming the previous Labour government for changing the law in 2008 to allow for the early release of prisoners.
The Tory leader has vowed that if he reclaims power this month he will end early release for terrorist offences and introduce minimum 14-year sentences, with some convicted never to be released. The proposals were not in the Conservatives’ formal manifesto released last Sunday. Johnson penned an article setting out the new stance in The Mail yesterday newspaper, under the headline: “Give me a majority and I’ll keep you safe from terror”.