A man wearing a “hoax device” shot dead by police in London Sunday after stabbing two people had recently been released from prison for previous terrorism offenses, British media reported.
The suspect was released last month after serving around half of an approximate three-year sentence for disseminating terrorist material, according to multiple reports.
In a statement, British police said they were not formally identifying the attacker but “felt confident” to name the suspect as Sudesh Amman.
British media said he was deemed so high risk that he was under surveillance by police.
According to Sky News, Amman, 20, was released just a week ago after he was jailed for the possession and distribution of extremist material and was said to have been inspired by the Islamic State terror group.
He was said to have claimed in online chats that Muslims in London were being massacred and put in conditions worse than concentration camps, and according to the report “said that Jews were doing worse to Muslims.” He is also said to have expressed the view that it was permissible to rape Yazidi women.
British media reported he had told a girlfriend she she kill her “kuffar” parents, and had spoken of wanting to carry out an attack in Queensbury in northwest London. He was said to have talked of carrying out an attack by throwing acid from a moving moped or using a knife.
According to the Daily Mail, Amman shared Al-Qaeda propaganda materials in a family WhatsApp group.
He pledged allegiance to Islamic State at the time he was jailed, the Guardian reported.
According to the report, when Amman was convicted, Acting Commander Alexis Boon, then head of the Metropolitan police counter terrorism command, said Amman had a “fierce interest in violence and martyrdom.”
Amman strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a London street before before being shot to death by police Sunday in what they said was an Islamic terror attack.
One victim was hospitalized with life-threatening wounds. Police said later that his condition improved.
The second victim suffered less-serious injuries in the rampage, which took place about 2 p.m. in Streatham, a combined residential and commercial neighborhood well removed from the world-famous landmarks of central London.
Officers responded quickly to the stabbings because of a “proactive counterterrorism operation” that was underway, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said without elaborating.
Video from the scene appeared to show three undercover police officers in an unmarked car making a quick stop and emerging with weapons.
Bell Reberio-Addy, a member of Parliament who represents Streatham, said the attacker had been under surveillance “for some time.”
D’Orsi said police believe the bloodshed was related to Islamic extremism. She gave no details and provided no immediate information on the assailant.
D’Orsi said there was no “continuing danger” to the public, but the area remained cordoned off as the investigation continued. The usually busy area was deserted as the public heeded police requests to stay away.
The drama about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of central London marked a departure from recent terror attacks in the British capital that took place near landmarks such as London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the aftermath that the government would introduce “fundamental changes” to the way people convicted of terrorism offenses are treated. He cited Sunday’s attack and another at Fishmonger’s Hall in December as reasons for the changes.
The December attack was carried out by a man who had served time in prison for terrorism offenses. Johnson’s reference to that case suggested something similar may have happened in this case.
The attack caused chaos and panic on what had been a typical Sunday afternoon, with the streets filled wish shoppers.
Karker Tahir said he was at work when he saw police chasing a man down Streatham High Road, the area’s main shopping district.
“They kept telling him, ‘Stop! Stop!” Tahir said. “But he didn’t stop, and then I saw that they shot him three times. It was horrible seeing it. The man was on the floor and it looked like he had something, which police said may be a device. Police came to us and said, ‘You have to leave the shop because he has a bomb in his bag.’”
Images shared on social media showed a man lying on the sidewalk outside a pharmacy. D’Orsi said the device strapped to the assailant’s body was quickly determined to be a hoax.
A third person suffered minor injuries, apparently from flying glass.
“The circumstances are being assessed,” the Metropolitan Police tweeted. “The incident has been declared as terrorist-related.”
The bloodshed took place a little over two months after two people were stabbed to death near London Bridge by a man who had recently been released from prison, where he was serving a 16-year sentence for plotting a terror attack.
In November, British authorities lowered the national terror threat level to “substantial,” meaning an attack is considered likely. That is the third-highest rung in a five-step system used by British authorities and marked the first time since August 2014 that the threat level had been so low.
It was lowered because of the belief that the threat of British jihadis returning to the country from Syria had been reduced by events there, including the Islamic State group’s loss of territory.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged community resolve in the face of another attack.
“Terrorists seek to divide us and to destroy our way of life,” he said. “Here in London we will never let them succeed.”