UK jury says south London attack last year was preventable

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FILE – In this Monday Feb. 3, 2020 file photo, police officers block a road leading to the scene of Sunday’s terror stabbing attack in the Streatham area of south London. A jury in London on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021 has concluded that a terror attack in the south of the city last year could have been prevented had the perpetrator been recalled to prison after he bought items that were used in a fake suicide belt. Twenty-year-old Sudesh Amman was shot dead by armed undercover officers after he stole a knife from a hardware shop and randomly stabbed a man and a woman in Streatham on Feb. 2, 2020, before turning to charge at the two armed police officers who gave chase. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, file)

LONDON (AP) — A jury concluded Friday that a terror attack on a busy street in south London last year could have been prevented had the perpetrator been recalled to prison after he bought items that were used in a fake suicide belt.

Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead by armed undercover officers after he stole a knife from a hardware shop and randomly stabbed a man and a woman in Streatham on Feb. 2, 2020, before turning to charge at the two armed police officers who gave chase. The injured people survived the attack.

After 11 hours of consideration, the jurors at Britain’s high court returned a conclusion of lawful killing but said the probation services “missed an opportunity” to send him back to prison.

Over more than three weeks, jurors heard how authorities had grown increasingly concerned about Amman and how his extremist mindset developed during his time in prison.

They heard that police and security officers from the MI5 intelligence agency had been so concerned about Amman two days before the atrocity that they held an emergency meeting to discuss the prospect of returning him to prison following his recent release.

However, HM Prison and Probation Service opted against recalling him, even though undercover officers had spotted him buying four small bottles of carbonated soft drink Irn-Bru, kitchen foil and parcel tape two days before the attack — items they rightly feared could be used to make a hoax suicide belt.

Amman was kept under around-the-clock armed surveillance instead.

At the inquest’s conclusion, Judge Nicholas Hilliard praised the police for their bravery.

“Amman was prepared to risk his life,” he said. “In stark contrast, the Metropolitan Police surveillance teams were prepared to put themselves in harm’s way.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, echoed the judge’s remarks.

“Lethal force is rare in this country but as you have heard the evidence in this case, once the attack had started, lethal force was one of the most effective ways of stopping the attack,” he said outside the Met’s New Scotland Yard headquarters in central London.

Amman was said to have plotted to kill Queen Elizabeth II and to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. While in prison, Amman was also said to have reveled in his perceived notoriety as a young terrorist, and was said to have mixed with other high-profile offenders including the brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi.

He was automatically released from Belmarsh jail in London on Jan. 23, 2020, halfway through his 40-month sentence for obtaining and distributing material used for terror-related purposes, despite pleas to the prison governor to keep him in custody for longer after a police officer feared an attack would be “when, not if.”

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