A woman in her 60s was knifed to death Wednesday night, July 3, in a rampage in London’s Russell Square by a 19-year old man, who injured another six people before police brought him down with a Taser electric shock gun. The site near London University and the British Museum, not far from Oxford Street, was close to the scenes of the July 7 attacks eleven years ago, when Islamist bombers murdered 52 people and injured more than 700 on the London underground rail and a bus.
"Early indications suggest that mental health is a significant factor in this case and that is one major line of inquiry," London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters. "But of course… terrorism as a motivation remains but one line of inquiry for us to explore," said Rowley, who is Britain's most senior anti-terrorism officer.
That it is a major line of inquiry was demonstrated by police action Thursday morning to cordon off Russell Square and much of London’s West End.
The killer, described by witnesses as wearing a motorbike helmet and attacking people at random,
struck less than 24 hours after the Metropolitan London police announcement of an extra 600 armed marksmen for the streets of London against a terror threat. The attack may well be read as a warning that such precautions would be of no avail in preventing a jihadist attack on the British capital.
While holding back the killer’s identity, British anti-terror squads are no doubt searching his residence and other locations connected to his family and friends.
Tuesday night, shortly before the attack, debkafile carried this report.
Armed police prepare to deploy from Hyde Park, central London, after Scotland Yard announced Wednesday, Aug. 3 that the biggest police force in Britain is to put its first 600 additional armed officers on public patrols on the main streets and landmarks of London, as part of its anti-terrorism plans.
Metropolitan Police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that, following the terror attacks in Europe, more marksmen were trained and operationally ready for public patrol up to a total of 1,500 firearms officers.
Although British cops are proud of traditionally not carrying firearms, the Met chief said "I think people understand that where you are going to have people as enemies who've got guns, we've got to have guns.”
Already, he added, “They pass through airports where we have armed officers, they pass through railway stations where they see firearms, and in some of our big iconic locations, we've already got armed patrols – if you look at Parliament, Downing Street – so it's not entirely new.”
debkafile’s exclusive counterterrorism sources can name the men behind the upsurge of Islamic terror violence in West Europe last month: the Nice attack on July 14, which left 84 dead; the suicide bombing in Ansbach in Bavaria, Germany, on July 24, which left 15 people injured, and the murder of a French priest at a suburban church in Normandy on July 26.
They are two Frenchmen: Amn al-Kharji (ISIS codename: Abu Sulayman al-Faransi), who is head of the Islamic State’s secretive external operations wing and, under his command, Fabien Clain (ISIS codename: Salim Benghalem), a convert to Islam who heads European terror operations.
It was Benghalem who picked the targets of the Paris raids last November 2015, which left 132 people dead and hundreds wounded, and the Nice truck bombing, which murdered 84 victims on July 14, Bastille Day.
This week, he orchestrated the first known jihadist attack on a Christian place of prayer in Europe after instigating the first ISIS attacks in Germany.
Up until recently, Western intelligence services used ISIS as the generic term for any jihadist attacks in a European city, be it Brussels, Istanbul, Nice, Munich, Wurzburg or Ansbach. But no high-profile ISIS executives were ever named, for fear of impairing their efforts to plant agents or informers inside the murderous organization’s operational ranks in Europe and the Middle East.
These efforts have so far got nowhere. These two top maser-terrorists have been agile enough to stay a step or two ahead of Western counterterrorism agencies. The weeks and months ahead are therefore likely to see more terror outrages at unknown locations, executed with assorted weaponry by unforeseen methods.
Europe is therefore on high terror alert, braced for more jihadist attacks. And the streets of London will see armed cops on patrol.