ISIL claims responsibility for deadly London Bridge attack

Armed group claims one of its 'fighters' behind killing of two people in UK's capital as police probe continues.

    Police suspect Friday's assault was carried out by 28-year-old Usman Khan, who was shot dead by police at the scene, and had previously been imprisoned for 'terrorism' offences [Simon Dawson/Reuters]
    Police suspect Friday's assault was carried out by 28-year-old Usman Khan, who was shot dead by police at the scene, and had previously been imprisoned for 'terrorism' offences [Simon Dawson/Reuters]

    The ISIL (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for the deadly knife attack in London on Friday, which ended with a male assailant being shot dead by police after he stabbed several people, killing two.

    The group claimed responsibility on Saturday via its Amaq news agency without providing any evidence.

    "The person who carried out the London attack ... was a fighter from the Islamic State, and did so in response to calls to target citizens of coalition countries," the statement read, referring to a multi-country alliance against the group.

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    Earlier on Saturday, British police said there was "no evidence" to suggest anyone other than the knife-wielding man believed by authorities to be responsible for the attack was involved in the assault which was deemed a terrorist incident.

    "However, we are still making extensive enquiries to ensure there were no other people involved," Neil Basu, London's Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, said in a statement.

    Police suspect the attack was carried out by 28-year-old Usman Khan, who was shot dead by police at the scene and had previously been convicted and imprisoned for "terrorism" offences.

    Wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, Khan is suspected to have begun the assault at a conference on criminal rehabilitation beside London Bridge.

    Basu added that police carried out searches at addresses in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent in line with their probe into the incident.

    First victim named

    The developments came as the first victim of the attack, which saw three others wounded, was named as 25-year-old Jack Merritt.

    His father confirmed the death on Twitter, calling him "a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog".

    Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from London, said Merritt was a coordinator for prisoner rehabilitation programme Learning Together and had been attending the conference on Friday.

    "This programme [Learning Together] was hosting the conference at Fishmongers Hall that was targeted by Khan ... who a participant at this conference," Challands said.

    The other casualty of the attack has not yet been named. Health officials said two of the wounded were stable and the third had less serious injuries.

    'A complete disaster'

    Friday's attack has raised difficult questions for the UK's government and security services.

    Khan was convicted in 2012 for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange as well as other targets in the UK and sentenced to indeterminate detention, with a minimum jail term of eight years.

    The sentence would have allowed authorities to imprison him beyond the minimum term but, in 2013, the Court of Appeal revised his sentence to a fixed-term of 16 years, of which half should be served in prison.

    He was released in December 2018 "on license", meaning he had to meet certain conditions or face recall to prison.

    "This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences," Basu added. "Clearly, a key line of inquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies