MI5, Counterterrorism Officials Were Investigating Usman Khan Ahead of 2019 Stabbing Attack

The United Kingdom's domestic intelligence agency was investigating the man who killed two people in a London knife attack in 2019 after receiving intelligence that he was planning to return to a life of extremism, the Associated Press reported.

MI5 and counterterrorism police were already aware that Usman Khan, who had just been released from prison for his involvement in plotting a terrorist training camp, aspired to carry out an attack at the time he stabbed two people to death and injured three others at a prisoner rehabilitation event. Khan's probation officers and release supervisors were unaware of the probe.

A prison psychologist had warned at the time that he was even more at risk of harming the public ahead of his release, providing a list of warning signs to authorities. But Khan was allowed to travel alone to London to the rehabilitation event, where he strapped knives to his hands to attack random targets.

"The stark reality is that we can never guarantee that we will stop every attack, but I promise that we will do everything we can to try," Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of British counterterrorism, said publicly.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

London Bridge Attack
A police officer stands next to where Usman Khan was shot, on London Bridge, on December 2, 2019. in London, England. Khan, a 28-year-old former prisoner convicted of terrorism offenses, killed two people in Fishmongers' Hall at the North end of London Bridge on November 29, 2019, before continuing his attack on the bridge. Khan was restrained and disarmed by members of the public before being shot by armed police. Peter Summer/Getty Images

A string of failures by British authorities played a part in allowing Khan to kill two people in the attack, an inquest jury concluded Friday.

Khan carried out the November 2019 attack at Fishmongers' Hall. After the attack, he was chased onto nearby London Bridge and shot dead by police.

The inquest jury concluded there was "a lack of accountability and deficiencies in management" by police, probation and intelligence authorities overseeing Khan after his release from prison. They said authorities were blinded by Khan's "poster-boy" image as a rehabilitated prisoner, when in fact he was "manipulative and duplicitous" and remained a committed extremist.

Inquests are held in Britain to establish the facts in cases of violent or unexplained deaths. The jury concluded that the two victims, Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were unlawfully killed.

Khan stabbed the two at an event run by the prisoner rehabilitation program Learning Together. Merritt worked for the program and Jones was a volunteer.

Khan was arrested in 2010 for being part of an al-Qaida-inspired plot to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. He was given an "indeterminate" sentence that specified he could only be released when he was judged not to be a danger to the public. He appealed, and the sentence was fixed at 16 years. Like many British inmates, he was released after serving half that time, in December 2018.

The jury praised "astonishing individuals," including other former prisoners attending the event, who fought back and disarmed Khan, using items including a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk displayed in the hall. Armed police soon arrived and shot Khan, who wore a suicide belt that turned out to be fake.

In a statement, the inquest jury expressed "heartfelt condolences to the families of Saskia and Jack, and to all who love and miss these two wonderful young people. They clearly touched the lives of so many, ours included."

"The world lost two bright stars that dreadful day," the jury said.

Usman Khan
Tributes are placed by the southern end of London Bridge on December 2, 2019, three days after a man stabbed two people to death and injured three others before being shot dead by police in London. A string of failures by British authorities played a part in allowing extremist Usman Khan, who had been jailed for terrorism offenses, to kill two people in a knife attack in London, an inquest jury concluded on May 28, 2021. Matt Dunham/AP Photo