Ali Harbi Ali

Ali Harbi Ali is the attacker who stabbed to death British parliamentarian David Amess on October 15, 2021.Peter Stubley, “Ali Harbi Ali: What we know about suspect in murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Independent (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/amess-murder-mp-ali-harbi-ali-b1939934.html; Peter Nicholls and Ben Makori, “UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker stabbed to death,” Reuters, October 16, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pm-johnson-visits-church-where-lawmaker-was-stabbed-death-2021-10-16/. According to initial investigations, Ali acted alone. Ali reportedly targeted Amess because of his votes in favor of airstrikes in Syria.“ISIS supporter found guilty of killing British lawmaker David Amess,” Associated Press, April 11, 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/britain-david-amess-killing-verdict-1.6415564. According to Ali’s close friends and family, Ali became radicalized after watching videos of extremist preacher Anjem Choudary.Isaac Crowson, Tom Wells, Nick Pisa, and Mike Sullivan, “TWISTED BY HATE Sir David Amess murder suspect ‘radicalised after watching YouTube videos of hate preacher Anjem Choudary,’” Sun (London), last updated October 18, 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/news/3876488/david-amess-murder-suspect-radicalise-anjem-choudary/. Ali reportedly waived his right to silence after his arrest and admitted to the attack.Michael Hamilton, Nick Pisa, Mike Sullivan, Tom Wells, and Ryan Sabey, “‘BLANK STARE’ Sir David Amess killer was ‘dead behind the eyes’ after attack, on terror alert list and had extremist material on phone,” Sun (London), October 16, 2021, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16443571/mp-david-amess-killer-terror-list/. On April 13, 2022, Ali was sentenced to life imprisonment.Holly Bancroft, “Sir David Amess: Ali Harbi Ali given whole life sentence for murder and planning terror attacks on other MPs,” Independent, April 13, 2022, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sir-david-amess-ali-harbi-ali-murder-terror-attack-b2056986.html.

Born in London, Ali is the son of Harbi Ali Kullane, a former media adviser to Somali prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire. In that role, Kullane had reportedly participated in multiple anti-terrorism campaigns against Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.Peter Stubley, “Ali Harbi Ali: What we know about suspect in murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Independent (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/amess-murder-mp-ali-harbi-ali-b1939934.html; Nazanine Moshiri, “Son of ex-Somali political aide held over UK lawmaker stabbing,” Reuters, October 18, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-says-considering-more-safety-measures-lawmakers-after-attack-2021-10-17/. After identifying Ali, police met with Kullane and took his phone for analysis.Marie Jackson and Dulcie Lee, “Sir David Amess: MP murder suspect held under Terrorism Act,” BBC News, October 17, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-58943184. Kullane confirmed to British media his son was in custody. Kullane also told media he had been “traumatized” by the news of the attack and his son’s arrest.Josh Glancy, Dipesh Gadher, Caroline Wheeler, Katie Tarrant, and John Simpson, “Father’s shock after son held over Sir David Amess murder,” Times (London), October 17, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/father-s-shock-after-son-held-over-sir-david-amess-murder-gr8rj7whq.

A week before the October 15, 2021, attack, Ali made an appointment to meet with Amess during a public session at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London. Amess had promoted the event on social media.Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, and Ben Riley-Smith, “Sir David Amess murder suspect had considered killing other MPs, the Telegraph understands,” Telegraph (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/17/sir-david-amess-murder-suspect-had-considered-killing-mps-telegraph/. On October 15, Ali traveled from his residence in north London to Leigh-on-Sea. Ali had arrived at the event at 10 a.m. that day and reportedly passed through security. Just after noon, Ali allegedly attacked Amess with a knife, stabbing him up to 17 times. Police quickly arrived at the church and arrested Ali at 12:05 p.m. on suspicion of murder. Amess died of his wounds shortly after.Gerhard Mey and Andrew Couldridge, “British lawmaker stabbed to death in ‘terrorist incident,’” Reuters, October 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/british-lawmaker-amess-stabbed-multiple-times-sky-2021-10-15/; Peter Stubley, “Ali Harbi Ali: What we know about suspect in murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Independent (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/amess-murder-mp-ali-harbi-ali-b1939934.html; “UPDATE: Investigation into murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Metropolitan Police, October 16, 2021, https://news.met.police.uk/news/update-investigation-into-murder-of-sir-david-amess-mp-435687; Josh Glancy, Dipesh Gadher, Caroline Wheeler, Katie Tarrant, and John Simpson, “Father’s shock after son held over Sir David Amess murder,” Times (London), October 17, 2021, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/father-s-shock-after-son-held-over-sir-david-amess-murder-gr8rj7whq. Police labeled the attack an act of terrorism and reported a “potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.”Gerhard Mey and Andrew Couldridge, “British lawmaker stabbed to death in ‘terrorist incident,’” Reuters, October 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/british-lawmaker-amess-stabbed-multiple-times-sky-2021-10-15/. Police reportedly found Islamist material on Ali’s phone.Michael Hamilton, Nick Pisa, Mike Sullivan, Tom Wells, and Ryan Sabey, “‘BLANK STARE’ Sir David Amess killer was ‘dead behind the eyes’ after attack, on terror alert list and had extremist material on phone,” Sun (London), October 16, 2021, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16443571/mp-david-amess-killer-terror-list/. Witnesses reportedly saw Ali on his phone moments before the attack, leading investigators to question whether he had been in communication with a third party. Those concerns reportedly led to police labeling the attack a terror investigation. Nonetheless, police reported their initial belief Ali had acted alone.Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, and Ben Riley-Smith, “Sir David Amess murder suspect had considered killing other MPs, the Telegraph understands,” Telegraph (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/17/sir-david-amess-murder-suspect-had-considered-killing-mps-telegraph/. That evening, Ali was transferred to London and held under the country’s Terrorism Act.Marie Jackson and Dulcie Lee, “Sir David Amess: MP murder suspect held under Terrorism Act,” BBC News, October 17, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-58943184. On October 16, police obtained a warrant to detain the suspect until October 22 before they are required to charge him.Peter Stubley, “Ali Harbi Ali: What we know about suspect in murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Independent (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/amess-murder-mp-ali-harbi-ali-b1939934.html; “UPDATE: Investigation into murder of Sir David Amess MP,” Metropolitan Police, October 16, 2021, https://news.met.police.uk/news/update-investigation-into-murder-of-sir-david-amess-mp-435687. On October 21, Ali appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and was charged with murder and preparation of terrorist acts.Joseph Lee, “Sir David Amess: Ali Harbi Ali charged with murder of MP,” BBC News, October 21, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-58997590. According to prosecutors, Ali considered himself “affiliated” with ISIS.“Man charged with UK lawmaker’s murder felt ‘affiliated to ISIL,’” Al Jazeera, October 21, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/21/uk-police-charge-man-with-murder-of-mp-david-amess.

Ali grew up in Croydon in south London and was training to become a medical doctor. He had attended secondary school, where he reportedly enjoyed playing soccer and going to movies with friends.Isaac Crowson, Tom Wells, Nick Pisa, and Mike Sullivan, “TWISTED BY HATE Sir David Amess murder suspect ‘radicalised after watching YouTube videos of hate preacher Anjem Choudary,’” Sun (London), last updated October 18, 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/news/3876488/david-amess-murder-suspect-radicalise-anjem-choudary/. Investigators reportedly pursued the theory that Ali self-radicalized online by watching YouTube videos of radical British Islamist Anjem Choudary, who had been sentenced to prison in 2016 on charges of inviting support for ISIS.Isaac Crowson, Tom Wells, Nick Pisa, and Mike Sullivan, “TWISTED BY HATE Sir David Amess murder suspect ‘radicalised after watching YouTube videos of hate preacher Anjem Choudary,’” Sun (London), last updated October 18, 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/news/3876488/david-amess-murder-suspect-radicalise-anjem-choudary/; Stephen Castle, “Anjem Choudary Is Sentenced to Prison for Promoting ISIS,” New York Times, September 6, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/07/world/europe/anjem-choudary-sentenced-isis.html. Choudary denied that he could have radicalized Ali as he was unable to upload videos after he was charged from 2015 until 2021, further stating that “there is currently no significant material to be found anywhere online due to its removal by social media companies.”Stephen Wynn-Davies, “Hate preacher Anjem Choudary denies 'radicalising' suspect arrested over murder of David Amess - because he's had no internet access in six years and his YouTube clips have been removed,” Daily Mail, October 18, 2021, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10104531/Hate-preacher-Anjem-Choudary-denies-radicalising-suspect-arrested-murder-David-Amess.html. However, Ali claimed that by 2014, he “pretty much already radicalized [himself].”Rebecca Camber and Rory Tingle, “David Amess killer's mother suspected he'd joined ISIS a year before he brutally murdered MP in 'lone wolf' terror attack but was too afraid to report him,” Daily Mail, April 12, 2022, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10710779/David-Amess-killers-mother-suspected-hed-joined-ISIS-year-murder.html. Furthermore, a high school friend of Ali’s told media Ali’s personality changed after he began watching videos of Choudary online. Friends allegedly told Ali that Choudary was an extremist who hated the West, but Ali continued to watch Choudary’s videos.Isaac Crowson, Tom Wells, Nick Pisa, and Mike Sullivan, “TWISTED BY HATE Sir David Amess murder suspect ‘radicalised after watching YouTube videos of hate preacher Anjem Choudary,’” Sun (London), last updated October 18, 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/news/3876488/david-amess-murder-suspect-radicalise-anjem-choudary/.

At one point, Ali was referred to the Prevent program, the United Kingdom’s counter radicalization program. The referral was not forwarded to the MI5 security agency. Ali reportedly did not remain in Prevent for long as participation is voluntary.Marie Jackson and Dulcie Lee, “Sir David Amess: MP murder suspect held under Terrorism Act,” BBC News, October 17, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-58943184. Media sources reported that Ali originally had intended to travel to Syria to fight alongside ISIS, but by 2019 had settled on an attack in Britain.Vivek Chaudhary and Rory Tingle, “From football-loving aspiring doctor to terrorist who murdered David Amess: How Ali Harbi Ali descended down spiral of self-radicalisation after watching videos of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad's brutal Syrian regime,” Daily Mail, April 11, 2022, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10707833/How-David-Amess-killer-descended-spiral-self-radicalisation.html. Additionally, according to media sources, Ali’s mother revealed that she had suspected her son had joined ISIS a year before the killing but was too afraid to report him.Rebecca Camber and Rory Tingle, “David Amess killer's mother suspected he'd joined ISIS a year before he brutally murdered MP in 'lone wolf' terror attack but was too afraid to report him,” Daily Mail, April 12, 2022, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10710779/David-Amess-killers-mother-suspected-hed-joined-ISIS-year-murder.html.

According to preliminary investigations, however, Ali had chosen Amess randomly because he had been able to arrange an in-person meeting with the politician. Ali allegedly sought to kill a national politician without regard to the legislator’s views on Israel or other issues, or party affiliation.Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, and Ben Riley-Smith, “Sir David Amess murder suspect had considered killing other MPs, the Telegraph understands,” Telegraph (London), October 18, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/10/17/sir-david-amess-murder-suspect-had-considered-killing-mps-telegraph/.

On April 11, 2022, London’s Central Criminal Court found Ali guilty of murder and preparing terrorist acts. During the trial, Ali claimed he targeted Sir David because of his votes in favor of airstrikes in Syria. On April 13, Ali was sentenced to life imprisonment.Holly Bancroft, “Sir David Amess: Ali Harbi Ali given whole life sentence for murder and planning terror attacks on other MPs,” Independent, April 13, 2022, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sir-david-amess-ali-harbi-ali-murder-terror-attack-b2056986.html; “ISIS supporter found guilty of killing British lawmaker David Amess,” Associated Press, April 11, 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/britain-david-amess-killing-verdict-1.6415564. Following Ali’s sentencing, Choudary blamed Amess’s death on the United Kingdom’s refusal to allow Ali to leave the country to join ISIS.Dominik Lemanski, “David Amess would be alive if killer had joined IS, claims hate preacher,” Express (London), April 17, 2022, https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1597194/sir-david-amess-murder-ISIS-Anjem-Choudary-Ali-Harbi-Ali-syria-latest. In an online blogpost, Choudary accused the United Kingdom of radicalizing Ali through its “foreign policy in Syria and Iraq.”Isaac Crowson, “‘DISGRACEFUL’ Hate preacher Anjem Choudary blames Britain for ‘radicalising’ MP David Amess’s killer,” Sun (London), April 17, 2022, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/18286915/anjem-choudary-blames-britain-radicalising-mp-david-amesss-killer/. Choudary also wrote the media would “paint Ali as a monster.”Isaac Crowson, “‘DISGRACEFUL’ Hate preacher Anjem Choudary blames Britain for ‘radicalising’ MP David Amess’s killer,” Sun (London), April 17, 2022, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/18286915/anjem-choudary-blames-britain-radicalising-mp-david-amesss-killer/.

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