On Saturday, 20 June, three people were killed and three others sustained severe wounds in a stabbing attack in Reading’s Forbury Gardens park (around 60 kilometres west of London).
Emergency services were called to the scene at approximately 19:00 local time following reports of multiple people being stabbed. Within minutes, they blocked several roads in the area and two air ambulances landed nearby.
A 25-year-old man, Khairi Saadallah, was chased, tackled and detained by police officers 5 minutes after the initial 999 call. He was then arrested on suspicion of murder. He was then re-arrested while in custody under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The incident occurred about three hours after supporters of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) gathered peacefully for a demonstration at Forbury Gardens. Police have announced that there was no connection between the two events.
On 21 June, the authorities declared the attack a terrorist incident and reported that counter-terrorism units and security services will support Thames Valley Police with the investigation. Moreover, it was confirmed that there was no credible threat or intelligence to suggest any further attacks.
Authorities also announced that they were not looking for any other people in connection to the attack, as intelligence suggested that the suspect acted alone. Preliminary reports indicate that the attacker is thought to be a Libyan national.
Chief Constable John Campbell, of Thames Valley Police, stated: “incidents of this nature are very rare, though I know that will be of little comfort to those involved and understand the concern that this incident will have caused amongst our local community”.
Residual police cordons and further operations to investigate the incident are possible in the Reading area in the coming days.
SOLACE GLOBAL COMMENT
Attacks of this natures, while rare, are not uncommon in the United Kingdom. This is the third major incident since the UK downgraded its official terrorism threat level from “severe” to “substantial”, which means that attacks remain likely but there is no intelligence of an immediate risk to life.
The most prominent driver of terrorist events in Europe, since the turn of the century, is Islamic extremism. While attacks in 2005, the 7/7 bombings, involved a series of coordinated suicide attacks targeting London’s public transport network, recent attacks have largely involved lone-wolf, low sophistication, knife and vehicle ramming attacks.
Indeed, in the past two years since the 2018 Westminster car ramming, knife attacks have become the most common form of terrorist attack in the UK, with a knife assault occurring in Manchester in December 2018, an attempted stabbing in January 2019, the 2019 London Bridge Stabbing in late November last year and an attack in Streatham, London in February 2020.
Normally, attacks of this nature are claimed by a terrorist group, or the attacker pledges allegiance in some way prior to the incident. At the time of writing, neither has occurred nor been uncovered by police, but investigations are ongoing.
In the aftermath of the event, armed Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers raided a block of flats in Basingstoke Road in Reading where the suspect was reportedly living. As such, further information regarding Khairi Saadallah’s motives is likely to be disclosed in the coming days and weeks.
It has also been reported that the suspect, who is understood to originally be from Libya, came to the attention of the Security Service (MI5) last year. According to media sources, MI5 had received information that Saadallah had aspirations to travel abroad, potentially for terrorist training. However, it is understood that upon further investigation, no genuine threat or immediate risk was identified and no further action was taken.
SOLACE GLOBAL ADVICE
- Residual police cordons remain in place and disruption is likely in proximity to Reading’s Forbury Gardens park.
- Expect additional security throughout the town and the wider country, especially around parks, tourist spots and other potential targets. Adhere to all instructions given by law enforcement.
- Further copycat or similar attacks are possible; as such, maintain situational awareness when in public areas.
- Report any suspicious behaviour or activity to the authorities.
- Despite this, normal travel can continue.
- Monitor media and Solace Secure alerts for situational updates.
- Authorities have also asked the public to avoid speculation. Direct any relevant video footage or images of the attack to the police and avoid circulating it on social media
- If caught in a firearms or weapons attack, individuals are advised to follow the UK counter-terrorism policing advice of RUN, HIDE, TELL.
The UK government states that the terror threat level is “substantial”, meaning a terror attack is likely. Islamist extremists continue to view the UK as a legitimate and high-profile target for attack. Terror attacks in the UK are likely to be perpetrated by self-radicalised individuals using low-tech means, such as knives and vehicles. Attacks could occur with little warning and may be indiscriminate.