LONDON ATTACK: One Suspect Was Well Known To Law Enforcement

LONDON — (CNN) London’s Metropolitan Police have admitted that one of two men identified in Saturday’s attack was known to them, but the investigation had been downgraded as there was no evidence to suggest he posed an imminent threat.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told journalists that Khuram Shazad Butt was known to police and MI5, but “there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly.”

“Work is ongoing to understand more about (the attackers), their connections and whether they were assisted or supported by anyone else. We cannot say more about them at this stage.”

He said the UK is facing a “severe and high tempo terrorist threat.”

Seven people died and 48 were injured when three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before leaping out and launching a stabbing spree in nearby bars and restaurants.

Twelve people were arrested after the attack but have all now been released without charge, the Met Police said on its Twitter account Monday. It also reported that officers had raided an address in Ilford, east London, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Attackers identified

Police have identified two attackers, and have yet to release the name of the third man who carried out a brutal attack Saturday night in central London, killing seven.

The first attacker, Butt, is a 27-year-old British citizen who was born in Pakistan. The second was named as Rachid Redouane, a 30-year-old who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan.

Butt, who also used the name Abdul Zaitun, appeared in a 2016 documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door,” which told the story of Abu Rumaysah, the Londoner who has appeared in recent ISIS propaganda. At one point in the documentary, Butt can be seen unfurling a black banner in Regent’s Park.

A London mosque said Butt “infrequently” attended prayers there but was asked to leave after an incident a few years ago where he interrupted a Friday sermon, according to a statement from Jabir bin Zayd Islamic Centre.

In two videos viewed by CNN, Butt is among a group of men searched by police in 2015 after a member of the public reported seeing the group praying in a park with what appeared to be an ISIS flag.

The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency claimed a “detachment of Islamic State fighters” carried out the attack but provided no evidence to back up its claim.

Criticism

Despite a rapid response to Saturday’s deadly attack, which saw armed officers shoot dead all three suspects within eight minutes, Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticized for her party’s cuts to police budgets while in government, including calls for her to step down.

Asked if he backed calls for May’s resignation just days before the country’s General Election, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn told ITV, “indeed I would.”

He later clarified: “I think we should vote on Thursday to decide who our MPs are and who are government is going to be … There’s an election on now, there’s a choice for everybody. There’s a deep anger from those people who’ve seen 20,000 police officers lose their jobs.”

Corbyn’s party colleague, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, told Britain’s Channel 4 News that the police force is underfunded.

“We simply don’t have the resources we need to provide the best service we can,” he said in an interview following Monday’s vigil.

“Thousands of police staff have been lost, police stations closed down, police buildings sold off, but the Tory party have plans to make a further £400 million ($517 million) cuts (to the Metropolitan Police) over the next three to four years … It’s not rocket science. If we have less and less money we can do less and less.”

Since 2010, when the Conservatives entered government, the number of police officers has fallen from 145,948 to 126,766 in March 2016, according to Home Office figures cited by ITV.
Before she became the country’s leader May acted as Home Secretary, heading the ministry responsible for policing.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron added his voice to the chorus, saying that, in her former role and now as Prime Minister, May had “shown contempt for our police force.”

Holding lead

The Prime Minister, who sees her Conservative Party hanging onto a moderate but clear lead in British polling ahead of Thursday’s general election — at least half a dozen polling companies show leads of anywhere from one to 12-point leads for the Conservatives over Corbyn’s Labour Party.

That’s noticeably tighter than the 20-point leads that some polls showed at the time May called the snap election in April.

The Prime Minister was forced Monday to defend her government’s budgetary choices.

“We have been protecting counterterrorism policing,” she said in an address to supporters in Edinburgh. “From 2015 we’ve been protecting police budgets.”

The UK will observe a minute’s silence Tuesday and flags will remain at half-staff on Whitehall government buildings.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved. (PHOTO: London Metropolitan Police)

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