'UK terror attack leader should have been monitored'

Representative image. AFP Photo

The Pakistani-origin terrorist who was the ringleader behind the 2017 London Bridge attack in the UK should have remained under surveillance by the intelligence services, the chief coroner of England and Wales has concluded in a report on Friday.

Khuram Butt was one of the three men who killed eight people and injured 48 in their marauding van and knife attack near London Bridge before being shot by counter-terrorism officers.

In the months before the June 3, 2017 terror attack, it emerged that Butt had been under investigation, but that was suspended twice because MI5 needed to divert experienced staff to other operations.

"Although MI5 must be able to prioritise and divert resources at times of greatest demand, the suspension of priority investigations is a matter of legitimate public concern," notes Mark Lucraft, the Chief Coroner, in his report titled 'Prevention of Future Deaths'.

"Accordingly, the systems for suspending such investigations (including the criteria for suspension, recording of suspension decisions and systems for rebuilding intelligence after suspensions) should be specifically considered in the continuing work of review and improvement," he said.

The report goes on to say that it was "possible, but for that suspension, further useful intelligence about Butt would have been obtained, including more information about his links to the other attackers".

The report also raises a number of other concerns about the actions of the security services before the attacks and calls for greater coordination between different sections of the security forces.

The families of the bereaved had accused MI5 of missing "opportunities" to stop the attack. Among the failings was an alleged two-month delay in translating a request from Italian authorities for information about another of the attackers, Youssef Zaghba, 22.

At the conclusion of the inquest into the killings in June this year, Lucraft had said he was "not persuaded" that the authorities had missed clues that could have helped thwart the atrocity. In his report this week, he highlighted the need for greater awareness around protective security, including the introduction of legal obligations, if necessary.

The coroner has urged the security service to adopt "flexible systems" for "scaling back" rather than suspending investigative work at times of high demand.

The report made 18 recommendations — seven about counter-terrorism investigations, six about the emergency response and five about protective security.

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