Usman Khan

Usman Khan was the British domestic terrorist who carried out the November 29, 2019, stabbing attack near the London Bridge that killed two and wounded three.David Mercer and Alix Culbertson, “Five minutes of terror: How the London Bridge attack unfolded,” Sky News, December 2, 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/how-the-london-bridge-terror-attack-unfolded-11874155. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the London Bridge attack and claimed that Khan was one of its soldiers.Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Islamic State claims attack in London by al Qaeda-inspired terrorist,” Long War Journal, December 2, 2019, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2019/12/analysis-islamic-state-claims-attack-in-london-by-al-qaeda-inspired-terrorist.php. Khan had been released early from prison in 2018 after serving only part of a 16-year sentence for involvement in a failed plot targeting the London Stock Exchange (LSE).“Terrorism gang jailed for plotting to blow up London Stock Exchange,” Telegraph (London), February 9, 2012, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9072455/Terrorism-gang-jailed-for-plotting-to-blow-up-London-Stock-Exchange.html; “London Bridge terror attack: Everything we know about terrorist Usman Khan,” Sky News, November 30, 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/london-bridge-terror-attack-everything-we-know-about-terrorist-usman-khan-11874250. Khan was a close associate of British ISIS propagandist Anjem Choudary, who was also released early from prison in 2018.Felix Allen, “FREE TO ROAM Hate preacher Anjem Choudary who ‘inspired’ London Bridge killer pictured on our streets,” Sun (London), December 3, 2019, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10467378/anjem-choudary-electronic-tag-london-bridge-terrorist-links/.

Khan was one of nine men arrested in England on December 20, 2010, in connection with a plot to blow up the LSE on Christmas Eve. The group sought to launch a coordinated bomb-and-gun attack in the style of the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. The group considered targeting Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye.“Terrorism gang jailed for plotting to blow up London Stock Exchange,” Telegraph (London), February 9, 2012, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9072455/Terrorism-gang-jailed-for-plotting-to-blow-up-London-Stock-Exchange.html; Randeep Ramesh and Peter Walker, “Gunmen run amok in Mumbai terror attack killing and injuring hundreds,” Guardian (London), November 27, 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/27/india-terrorist-attacks-mumbai. hey began planning the attack in November 2010 and intended to target the LSE on Christmas Eve, even though the stock exchange would be closed.“Stoke terror sentences revised,” BBC News, April 16, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-22168422. Witnesses during the trial called the plot amateurish and unlikely to succeed.“London Stock Exchange terror bomb plot was ‘amateurish,’” BBC News, February 8, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16951623.

Others involved in the plot included Shah Rahman, Gurukanth Desai, Abdul Malik Miah, Mohammed Shahjahan, Mohibur Rahman, Nazam Hussain, Omar Sharif Latif, and Mohammed Chowdhury.“Terrorism gang jailed for plotting to blow up London Stock Exchange,” Telegraph (London), February 9, 2012, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9072455/Terrorism-gang-jailed-for-plotting-to-blow-up-London-Stock-Exchange.html. Khan and some of the others involved met through Islam4UK, an Islamist offshoot of the banned British Islamist network al-Muhajiroun led by Choudary and Omar Bakri Mohammed. Others met while preaching in London street stalls about radical Islam.Dominic Casciani, “Stock Exchange plotters: Fantasists or a threat?,” BBC News, February 9, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16953938.

Khan was reportedly a “personal friend” of Choudary’s.Felix Allen, “FREE TO ROAM Hate preacher Anjem Choudary who ‘inspired’ London Bridge killer pictured on our streets,” Sun (London), December 3, 2019, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10467378/anjem-choudary-electronic-tag-london-bridge-terrorist-links/. They had appeared together at a March 2009 conference on sharia (Islamic law) at the Cobridge Community Centre in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.Chris Kitching, “London Bridge terrorist pictured with Anjem Choudary as killer's poem emerges,” Mirror (London), December 2, 2019, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/london-bridge-terrorist-pictured-anjem-21008719. Khan and other LSE plotters had Choudary’s phone number stored in their phones at the time of their arrests.“Terrorism gang jailed for plotting to blow up London Stock Exchange,” Telegraph (London), February 9, 2012, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9072455/Terrorism-gang-jailed-for-plotting-to-blow-up-London-Stock-Exchange.html. Choudary admitted that several of the plotters were his students but told British media that police had taken their conversations “out of context.”Dominik Lemanski, “Bomb plotters are my students, admits Choudary,” Daily Star (London), February 5, 2012, https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/bomb-plotters-students-admits-choudary-18512705. Following the 2019 London Bridge attack, a photo surfaced in British media of Khan and Choudary from the 2009 conference.Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, and Charles Hymas, “Anjem Choudary’s licence under ‘urgent’ review in wake of London Bridge attack,” Telegraph (London), December 2, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/12/02/anjem-choudary-have-licence-conditions-reviewed-emerges-met/.

Khan and other members drew inspiration from deceased al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and looked to AQAP’s Inspire magazine for instructions on building pipe bombs.“London Stock Exchange terror bomb plot was ‘amateurish,’” BBC News, February 8, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16951623. The plotters were reportedly concerned about whether Islam allowed for the use of violence. Ultimately, Awlaki’s lectures provided them with the justification they sought.Dominic Casciani, “Stock Exchange plotters: Fantasists or a threat?,” BBC News, February 9, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16953938. Khan reportedly radicalized initially by watching online videos of Awlaki’s lectures.Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, “RPT-The al Qaeda-inspired 28-year-old militant who launched London Bridge attack,” Reuters, December 2, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-security-attacker/rpt-the-al-qaeda-inspired-28-year-old-militant-who-launched-london-bridge-attack-idUSL8N28C0OF.

Khan’s family descended from Pakistan. Khan sought to raise money with co-conspirators Shahjahan and Hussain to set up a terror-training camp for British Muslims on land owned by Khan’s family in Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir. All three lived in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent and formed their own cohort within the larger group. According to the judge at their trial, the three from Stoke considered themselves to be more serious jihadists than the others in the group.Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, “RPT-The al Qaeda-inspired 28-year-old militant who launched London Bridge attack,” Reuters, December 2, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-security-attacker/rpt-the-al-qaeda-inspired-28-year-old-militant-who-launched-london-bridge-attack-idUSL8N28C0OF. Prosecutors called Khan “central” to that plot.“Usman Khan and others -v- R,” Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, April 16, 2013, https://www.judiciary.uk/judgments/usman-khan-others-v-r-judgment/.

Khan and his co-conspirators pleaded guilty to preparation for acts of terrorism on January 31, 2012. On February 7, Khan received an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) indeterminate sentence with a minimum of eight years. The open sentence gave the parole board authority to determine the length of Khan’s imprisonment based on whether he still presented a threat. Khan also received a determinate sentence of 16 years for the Kashmir plan.“Usman Khan and others -v- R,” Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, April 16, 2013, https://www.judiciary.uk/judgments/usman-khan-others-v-r-judgment/. The United Kingdom abolished IPP sentences later in 2012 and Khan appealed his sentence.Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, “RPT-The al Qaeda-inspired 28-year-old militant who launched London Bridge attack,” Reuters, December 2, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-security-attacker/rpt-the-al-qaeda-inspired-28-year-old-militant-who-launched-london-bridge-attack-idUSL8N28C0OF. The U.K. Court of Appeal overturned the sentence in April 2013 and ordered Khan to serve a fixed-term sentence of a minimum of eight years of his original 16-year minimum sentence. Khan’s coconspirators Shahjahan and Hussain also receive revised sentences.“Stoke terror sentences revised,” BBC News, April 16, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-22168422.

After his sentencing, Khan instructed his lawyer to enroll him in a deradicalization program. Khan repeatedly asked for help in deradicalizing and sent a letter to the U.K. Home Office in October 2012 asking for help, according to his attorney.Dominic Casciani, “London Bridge: Why was the attacker, Usman Khan, out of prison?,” BBC News, December 1, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50618324. Khan allegedly wanted to live “as a good citizen of Britain” and a good Muslim.Danielle Sheridan, Patrick Sawer, Gabriella Swerling, Katie O'Neill, et al, “London Bridge attack: Suspect penned letter seeking ‘deradicalisation’ while in jail,” The Times (London), November 30, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/30/london-bridge-terror-attack-victims-stabbed-deaths-terror-suspect/. In prison, Khan participated in the Healthy Identity Intervention Programme, a British program specific to convicted extremists that had not revealed any verified results since its launch in 2010.“London Bridge: Usman Khan completed untested rehabilitation scheme,” BBC News, December 4, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50653191. While in prison Khan also started working with Learning Together, a Cambridge University-affiliated program that seeks to rehabilitate prisoners through education. Learning Together considered Khan one of its success stories. In a thank-you note after his release, Khan praised the program for “helping to provide learning of individual academic subjects” and “bringing people together, through the means of learning.”Jackie Salo, “London Bridge attacker Usman Khan deemed success story of program he targeted,” New York Post, December 2, 2019, https://nypost.com/2019/12/02/london-bridge-attacker-usman-khan-was-deemed-success-story-of-program-he-targeted/. According to Cambridge University, the program highlights a “wealth of untapped academic talent inside the criminal justice system.”“London Bridge attack: What is the Learning Together scheme?,” BBC News, December 1, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50623646.

Authorities released Khan early in December 2018 and allowed him to return home to finish his sentence while wearing a tracker. He was required to participate in the government’s Desistance and Disengagement Programme, which provides psychological counseling for terrorism convicts after leaving prison. After the London Bridge attack, Scotland Yard confirmed that Khan had been complying with all of his post-release restrictions.Dominic Casciani, “London Bridge: Why was the attacker, Usman Khan, out of prison?,” BBC News, December 1, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50618324.

On November 29, 2019, Khan armed himself with two kitchen knives and strapped on a fake suicide-vest. He traveled to London to attend Learning Together’s conference on prisoner rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall near the London Bridge. The conference drew approximately 100 attendees who were marking the organization’s fifth anniversary. Just before 2 p.m., Khan threatened to blow up the building and began attacking attendees with his knives. A Polish chef working at the hall fought off Khan using a narwhal tusk hanging on a nearby wall. Khan then fought his way through the crowds outside where passersby and an off-duty police officer tried to tackle him. Police arrived on the scene and pulled the civilians away from Khan, but shot and killed him after he appeared to be motioning toward his fake explosive vest. Police soon after confirmed that the vest was a hoax and labeled the attack a terrorist incident.David Mercer and Alix Culbertson, “Five minutes of terror: How the London Bridge attack unfolded,” Sky News, December 2, 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/how-the-london-bridge-terror-attack-unfolded-11874155.

British leaders questioned Khan’s early release and sought a review of 74 convicts who received early conditional releases.“Boris Johnson says 74 terror prisoners released early,” BBC News, December 1, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-50618744. Currently, British law allows for convicts serving fixed-term sentences to be released halfway through the term and complete the remainder of the sentence on home arrest under specific conditions.“Leaving Prison,” Gov.UK, accessed December 5, 2019, https://www.gov.uk/leaving-prison. Like Khan, Hussain had been released early in 2018. The day after the London Bridge attack police arrested Hussain and returned him to prison for a suspected breach of his parole conditions.David Mercer and Alix Culbertson, “Five minutes of terror: How the London Bridge attack unfolded,” Sky News, December 2, 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/how-the-london-bridge-terror-attack-unfolded-11874155. Choudary was released in October 2018 with communications and travel restrictions. Officials called for an “urgent” review of Choudary’s conditions following the London Bridge attack.Robert Mendick, Martin Evans, and Charles Hymas, “Anjem Choudary’s licence under ‘urgent’ review in wake of London Bridge attack,” Telegraph (London), December 2, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/12/02/anjem-choudary-have-licence-conditions-reviewed-emerges-met/.

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