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Reading attack suspect was known to security services

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-23 09:52

Flower tributes pictured outside Holt School, Wokingham, UK, in memory of teacher James Furlong. STEVE PARSONS/PA/AP

British police have confirmed that the man being held on terrorism charges after a fatal stabbing in the English town of Reading on Saturday night had previously come to the attention of the security services.

Khairi Saadallah, 25, who is believed to be from Libya, was initially arrested on a charge of murder following the incident which left three people dead, and was rearrested on Sunday under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which means he can be detained without charge for up to 14 days.

Counter-terrorist police specialists have now taken over the handling of the case from the local Thames Valley constabulary, and no-one else is being sought in connection with the incident.

The BBC reports that the suspect came onto the radar of the security services in 2019 after it was suggested he wanted to travel abroad, potentially for reasons linked to terrorism, but as further inquiries did not come up with any immediate risk or threat, no case was opened on him.

So far the names of two of the three victims have been released. James Furlong, 36, was head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham, and Joe Ritchie-Bennett was a 39-year-old United States national who had lived in the United Kingdom for 15 years and worked for a pharmaceutical company near Reading. The name of the third victim has not yet been made public.

Tributes from pupils described Furlong as an "inspirational, enthusiastic and passionate" teacher, and the joint head teachers of his school said he "truly inspired everyone he taught".

"He was determined that our students would develop a critical awareness of global issues and in doing so, become active citizens and have a voice," said a statement issued by Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce.

"As a whole community, we all now need to absorb this sad news. Words cannot describe our shock and sadness at this time."

Robert Ritchie, the father of Joe Ritchie-Bennett, told US network CBS his family was "heartbroken "at the loss of their "brilliant and loving" son.

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador in London, said he offered "my deepest condolences to the families of those killed. To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected".

Security Minister James Brokenshire has revealed that in the last three years, 25 terrorist plots have been disrupted in the UK, and with hundreds of possible leads to follow-up at any one time, managing the threat was a "complex, diverse "and "rapidly changing" challenge.

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