10:21 GMT +317 November 2019
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    Forensic investigators work at the site after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, August 14, 2018

    Precedents, Parallels: The Westminster Attack's Social and Historical Context

    © REUTERS / Henry Nicholls
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    Salih Khater, a 29-year-old shop manager from Birmingham, is currently in police custody, the prime suspect in August 14's attempted terror attack in Westminster, that left cyclists and pedestrians injured during early-morning rush-hour.

    Initially arrested on suspicion of terror offences, then attempted murder, the Sudanese immigrant, who resided in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham, was a former accountancy student at Coventry University, but dropped out after less than a year in May.

    While Khater is still refusing to cooperate with investigators, and little has been disclosed about him so far, officials have indicated the attacker was not known to security services of any stripe prior to the attack, a notable feature of the incident.

    State surveillance of suspects prior to attacks, and missed opportunities to prevent such events, are a recurring theme of major terrorist incidents in Western countries. In the case of the June 2017 London Bridge attacks, which claimed the lives of eight civilians, it has emerged security agents surveilled the trio as they loaded a van used in the attack before departing to their fateful destination.

    The car that was driven at pedestrians and cyclists in Westminster then crashed into the barrier outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday is seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, August 15, 2018
    © REUTERS / Metropolitan Police
    The car that was driven at pedestrians and cyclists in Westminster then crashed into the barrier outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday is seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, August 15, 2018
    Just two hours later, their vehicle was mowing down pedestrians on London Bridge, before the group exited and went on a stabbing spree, attacking Friday night revellers at nearby pubs and restaurants. They were only stopped when armed police arrived and shot them dead, eight minutes after the attack commenced.

    Troubling Parallels

    Nonetheless, Khater's attempted strike was not without recent parallel — perhaps most obviously, the March 22 2017 terror attack outside the Palace of Westminster, less than a fifth of a mile away from where August 14's violence unfolded.

    Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement along the south side of Westminster Bridge and Bridge Street, injuring over 50 and killing five. He then crashed the vehicle into the perimeter fence of Westminster Palace and ran into New Palace Yard, in an apparent attempt to enter parliament. En route, he fatally stabbed a police officer, before being shot by an armed police officer and dying at the scene.

    FILE- In this March 22, 2017 file photo, the attacker Khalid Masood is treated by emergency services outside the Houses of Parliament London. British Police named on Thursday March 23, 2017, Khalid Masood as The Houses of Parliament attacker
    © AP Photo / Stefan Rousseau/PA
    FILE- In this March 22, 2017 file photo, the attacker Khalid Masood is treated by emergency services outside the Houses of Parliament London. British Police named on Thursday March 23, 2017, Khalid Masood as The Houses of Parliament attacker

    Subsequent investigation by both media and authorities revealed Masood to be a heavy cocaine user with an extensive history of violence. Convictions for public order offences stretched back to 1983 — but in 2000, he was sentenced to two years in prison for grievous bodily harm after a knife attack in a bar in Sussex. Three years later, he received a further six months' incarceration for possession of an offensive weapon following another knife attack in Sussex. It was while in prison he converted to Islam, and he subsequently made several visits to Saudi Arabia.

    Like other terrorists before and since, Masood was well-known to security services. In 2010, he was a "peripheral figure" in an MI5 investigation into a group of Islamists later convicted of plotting to bomb a Territorial Army base in Luton — although following a risk assessment, MI5 decided he didn't pose a threat.

    However, between 2012 — 2016, Masood was a person of interest in MI5 investigations as a contact of individuals linked to UK-based salafist organization Al-Muhajiroun.

    Some critical voices have questioned how to he seemingly arrived with such precision at the exact moment the Carriage Gate to the South of the parliamentary estate was not only wide open but merely manned by unarmed uniformed police officers, rather than armed specialists. Had it not been for the miraculous presence at the scene of then-Defense Secretary Michael Fallon's armed bodyguard, Masood would've likely enacted far greater carnage than he ultimately managed.

    Independent researcher Garrick Alder has gone so far as to suggest Masood may have had a source in parliament, who helping ensure he was in the right place and time to penetrate Parliament's usually rock-solid defensive structures.

    Point of Origin

    In many ways, Masood was an atypical jihadist, given most are under 30. However, like Khater he resided in Birmingham — an area of the UK that has become closely associated with Islamic extremism. The city, Britain's second-largest, was allegedly the birthplace of the UK's first suicide bomber, where the country's first al-Qaeda plot was hatched, and was also home to one of the financiers of the 9/11 atrocity.

    Masood rented the vehicle used in his attack from Enterprise's Birmingham branch, and the days following the incident saw police carry out a series of raids across the city — four arrests, out of eight nationwide, were made there.

    Moreover, a study in 2017 estimated one in 10 of all those linked to Islamist terrorism in Britain and abroad — 26 in total — hailed from just five council wards in Birmingham; Bordesley Green, Hodge Hill, Sparkbrook, Springfield, and Washwood Heath. In all, 39 convicted terrorists have hailed from Birmingham, more than West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire combined, out of a Muslim population of 234,000.

    Police and emergency services are seen working at the scene of a multiple car crash on Lee Bank Middleway in central Birmingham, Britain, December 17, 2017
    © REUTERS / Darren Staples
    Police and emergency services are seen working at the scene of a multiple car crash on Lee Bank Middleway in central Birmingham, Britain, December 17, 2017
    Among their number are Moinal Abedin, who attended a training camp in Pakistan, and turned his Sparkbrook home into an incendiary factory. When raided by police, investigators found industrial quantities" of explosive HMTD, later used in the 7/7 London bombings. Abedin was jailed for 20 years in 2002.

    Likewise, Rashid Rauf, a ringleader of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners in 2006, was a Birmingham resident. He was arrested in Pakistan in December that year but charges against him were eventually reduced to forgery and possession of explosives. He subsequently escaped from prison, and is said to have been killed in a 2008 drone strike. American officials have claimed Rauf he was protected — and may have been allowed to flee custody — by extremist elements within Pakistani intelligence.

    UK couple convicted of plotting terror attack
    © Photo : Thames Valley Police
    UK couple convicted of plotting terror attack
    The year Rauf absconded, fellow Brummie Parviz Khan was jailed for life for planning to kidnap and behead a British soldier. In 2013, a trio of lifelong Sparkhill dwellers were jailed for as combined minimum of 51 years for plotting to carry out an attack that expressly aimed to kill more civilians than the 7/7 attacks.

    The prevalence of thought in the city is often said to result from extensive infiltration of both state and local Islamic education resources by extremist elements. Birmingham has been accused of being the center of 'peration trojan horse,' a plot by organized Islamists to infiltrate and take over state education structures.

    Whether a genuine strategy or not, the infection of mainstream Islamic institutions in the UK by extremist ideology has long been known by authorities and the public alike, but typically only in the aftermath of major terrorist attacks is it widely acknowledged.

    Police forensics investigators work on London Bridge after a terror attack in London, Britain, June 4, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Dylan Martinez
    Police forensics investigators work on London Bridge after a terror attack in London, Britain, June 4, 2017.

    For instance, in 2010 an investigation found around 40 Islamic religious schools operating in Britain used anti-Semitic textbooks to teach children as young as six Jews descend from "monkeys" and "pigs" — and Zionists are plotting to take over the world. One textbook asked children to itemize the "reprehensible" qualities of Jews — another taught the penalty for sodomy is execution, and outlined differing perspectives as to whether death should be meted out via stoning, immolation or throwing offenders off a cliff.

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    Tags:
    terrorism funding, false flag, jihadism, terrorism, Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), MI5, United Kingdom, Pakistan
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