U.K. police on Tuesday named the third London Bridge attacker as Youssef Zaghba, which creates more problems for the authorities: Reports say British intelligence agencies had been warned by their Italian counterparts that Zaghba posed a threat after they managed to prevent him from traveling to Syria. This revelation will increase the pressure on U.K. authorities – already under fire after it emerged that another attacker, Khuram Shazad Butt, was investigated by counterterrorism police as recently as 2015.
Reports that there may have been opportunities to stop the attackers have led London Mayor Sadiq Khan to question why the police didn’t act on any information they may have had. “Not unreasonably, these questions are being asked. I’m sure the police will look into what they knew, what they could have done, what they did do and if anything could have been done differently,” the mayor said in a BBC interview.
Police named Zaghba as the third man who took part in the attack on Saturday night in central London, when attackers drove a white van across London Bridge hitting pedestrians before they got out and went on to stab members of the public. Seven people were killed and 48 injured before police shot dead all three attackers.
Zaghba, a 22-year-old Moroccan-Italian man, was born in the city of Fez. Italian media reports suggest Italian authorities had warned British and Moroccan police about the dangers he posed, after he was stopped at Bologna airport in 2016 attempting to make his way to Syria. Police reportedly found Islamic State group propaganda on Zaghba’s phone but did not have enough evidence to hold him.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that in 2016 Zaghba was charged with international terrorism, but this was later dropped. He was nonetheless still considered a “risk,” the paper reports. In a statement identifying Zaghba, the Metropolitan Police said, “He was not a police or MI5 subject of interest.”
Another attacker, 27-year-old father of two Khuram Shazad Butt, was also known to the police. Butt was born in Pakistan but his family moved to the capital in 1988, when he was a toddler. In 2015, the police and MI5 opened an investigation into his activities as a supporter of the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun and its leader Anjem Choudary.
Months later, a member of the public contacted the anti-terrorism hotline with information about Butt’s extremism. According to the U.K.’s top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley, the investigation was later dropped because of a lack of evidence and intelligence that any attack was being planned.
Rowley said he had “seen nothing yet that a poor decision was made” in relation to why detectives dropped Butt’s case.
The third attacker, Rachid Radouane, 30, also from Barking, was not known to the security services.
The U.K. has now been hit with three major terror attacks in the space of just three months, leading to an increased focus on how the police try to stop these attacks. Rowley defended the actions of his officers, claiming that “in nine weeks, we’ve had five plots foiled and three successful attacks. That is completely different to anything we have seen for a long time. As the prime minister has indicated, we’re going to need to do some things differently.”
Khan warned Tuesday that proposed budget cuts to the Metropolitan police would make London more dangerous. The organization is seeking to cut up to £400 million ($515 million) from its budget, potentially wiping as many as 12,800 police officers from the force — a reduction in its strength of up to 40 percent.
“Cuts on this scale would make it harder to foil future terrorist attacks on our city — and as the mayor of London I’m simply not willing to stand by and let that happen,” Khan said.
In the days since the attack, Khan has been attacked by U.S. President Donald Trump for his response to the latest terror incident in London. Khan hit back at the president’s comments Tuesday, calling them “ignorant.”
“There are millions of Muslims around the world who love America, me included. And to play into the so-called ISIS narrative that Western liberal values are incompatible with Islam is ignorant,” Khan told “Good Morning Britain.”
Khan also called on the U.K. government to cancel Trump’s planned state visit: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he told Channel 4 News.