surprise surprise they had to mention cannabis
Terror suspect came ‘fleetingly’ on MI5’s radar over information suggesting he had aspirations to travel to Libya
The Libyan terror suspect accused of stabbing to death three people in a frenzied attack was reported to MI5 less than a year before, it emerged last night.
Khairi Saadallah, 25, was put on the security service’s ‘radar’ after a tip-off that he planned to travel to his native Libya over fears he wanted to join a militant jihadist group. But the file was closed after two months when intelligence services found no credible evidence to support the claim.
Questions remained last night over whether Saadallah should have been at large at the time of Saturday evening’s attack in a park in Reading, Berks, after being released early from prison this month for a minor, non-terrorist offence.
It has also emerged that Saadallah, who it’s claimed had serious mental health problems, had come to the UK as an illegal immigrant in 2012, but was granted asylum in 2018. He had boasted to friends in the UK that he had fought as a child soldier to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The UK is prevented from deporting Libyan prisoners back home after they serve their sentence because to do so would breach their human rights due to the dangers posed in the failed nation state. Sources said last night that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is planning to crackdown on asylum seekers and speed up the deportation of foreign national offenders.
Saadallah is the latest Libyan accused of a terrorist strike on UK soil and follows the blowing up of a US airliner over Lockerbie, the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London and the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena in 2017.
Saadallah first lived in Manchester when he arrived in the UK and former neighbours in Reading claimed that he knew Salman Abedi, who carried out the Manchester attack, when he lived in the north west. Home Office sources have denied any evidence of a connection.
Boris Johnson said yesterday the Government is determined to learn lessons from Saturday’s terrorist outrage. One of the victims was named last as James Furlong, head of history at a school in Wokingham, described by colleagues as a ‘kind and gentle man’.
The prime minister said he was “sickened and appalled” by what had happened in Reading and said the police must be allowed to get on with their job of investigating the incident.
But he added: “If there are lessons we need to learn about how we handle such cases, and how we handle the events leading up to such cases, then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary.”
Whitehall sources said Saadallah came ‘fleetingly’ on MI5’s radar over ‘information suggesting he had travel aspirations’. The sources stressed that Saadallah was just one of about 30,000 names on MI5’s terror suspect list in the middle of 2019 but that he was never elevated to a ‘subject of interest’ reserved for the 3,000 suspects posing the greatest threat to national security.
“After a couple of months, we were confident there was nothing in the original information,” said the source. “It didn’t pass the threshold to merit a full investigation because the information was not credible enough.”
Saadallah remained in custody last night after being arrested allegedly fleeing the scene. Eyewitnesses described a man entering the park, shouting something ‘unintelligible”, possibly in a foreign language, before stabbing a group of friends sat in a circle on the grass with a knife with a blade at least five inches long.
The man attacked a second group and then fled before being rugby tackled by police officer.
Saadallah’s flat, just over a mile from the scene of the attack, was raided by counter-terrorism police in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Police yesterday warned people to stay alert in parks amid fears lone wolf attacks are becoming even more rudimentary during the coronavirus pandemic when large crowds are gathering outside.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of counter terrorism policing, said yesterday: “Please continue with your daily lives, but be alert, not alarmed, when you are out in public. If you see anything suspicious, anything at all that makes you feel suspicious, then please report it, please remain vigilant.”
Saadallah relocated to the UK from war-torn Libya in 2012 because he could not bear the violence, his family said last night.
However, those who knew him in Manchester and Reading described an unpredictable character who smoked cannabis, a habit which friends believed affected his personality
A cousin revealed he had mental health problems which caused him to hear voices and fear he was being followed.
She said he had converted to Christianity and even got a tattoo of a cross on his arm.
“He’s not Muslim any more,” she said. “It’s like he’s always been in the UK.”
Whitehall sources said it was not clear whether there was an idealogical motive behind the incident but Counter terrorism police are now leading the investigation, amid concern that the attack may have been Islamist inspired.
Saadallah claimed asylum in the UK on arrival in 2012. He initially enrolled as a student in Bury, but according to close friends, “went off the rails” after becoming involved in drugs and suffered depression and mental health issues.
The Telegraph understands that the Home Office had concerns over Saadallah’s presence in the UK, but was powerless to seek his removal because the Government has agreed not to deport people to failed states, or those with serious human rights concerns.
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, said: “In order to safeguard the public, the Home Secretary must be able to remove those foreign nationals, including asylum seekers, who no longer have the right of abode.
“Yet over time, human rights case law has expanded so far as to make that near impossible with some nationals. This cannot be right, the Home Secretary’s powers must be restored”
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader said it was important that lessons were learned from the tragedy. He said it was “not a time for party politics” adding that he was willing to work with the Government to see if there are “lessons that can be learned”.
“It’s horrific that it happened at all wherever it happened, and across Reading, across the country there will be communities really upset and worried about this, united in their grief.
“And all of our thoughts are with those who have lost someone in this. The investigation must be completed, but of course, this is not a time for party politics.”