As the UK heads to another general election, political parties have now been subject to scrutiny for their attempts at politicising the deaths of two people in the London Bridge terror attack. Boris Johnson was accused of his “distasteful” attempt of manipulating the terror attack that occurred on Friday, 29th November into an election pitch as he cast the blame on Labour Party.
Johnson highlighted that Labour was responsible for the automatic early release scheme under which the attacker Usman Khan was initially sentenced.
Johnson has now claimed that “a lefty government” was responsible for Usman Khan being freed. Whereas Labour's Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, accused Johnson of going “straight from a tragedy to reheating pre-packaged political lines smearing the Labour party”.
Merritt's family has opposed from his murder being turned into political gain. His father retweeted a post showing the front pages of the Mail and Express, saying that his son “stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance”.
Tragedies like the one at London Bridge have reinforced the urgency to the U.K. government to take preventative actions and stop people from becoming extremists before they plan and execute terror attacks. Since 2003, the Home Office has developed, revised and implemented a strategy to reduce the risk to the U.K. from terrorism. However, PREVENT is also the most controversial strand which aims to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism such as jihadism or far-right movements.
In 2010, a group of young radical Muslims met in Cardiff's Roath Park to plot an attack to bomb the London Stock Exchange. Among the nine men, was Usman Khan who carried out the stabbing attack at London Bridge, killing a man and a woman and injuring three others including Jack Merritt.
Khan was out of prison on license at the time of the attack. He was convicted in 2012 after plotting attacks in the U.K. as part of the terror network that used to meet in Welsh parks. Four of his colleagues admitted alliance to the terrorist group al-Qaida.
Now, M15 has started certain inquiry into how a suspect whom they had under “active investigation” could have launched such an attack and Johnson said there were “probably about 74” convicted terrorists who had now been freed.
The attack was followed by a vigil which was held to pay tribute to the victims of the London Bridge terror attack and to honour the emergency services and members of the public who responded to the incident. Among those present were Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
The remembrance service at Guildhall Yard came as West Midlands Police said a 34-year-old man arrested in Stoke-on-Trent on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts has been recalled to prison due to a suspected breach of his licence conditions.
The family of one of Khan's victims Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, issued a heartfelt tribute released on Sunday.
They said: "He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.
"Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.
"We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary."
A number of convicts were present at the event at Cambridge University, some of whom helped tackle and disarm the terrorist on London Bridge before police shot him dead. There have been questions surrounding security at the event, given terrorists and murderers were free to mingle with members of the public. It is thought the hoax suicide vest he was wearing when he was shot dead was strapped to his torso all day and the knives he strapped to his hands are also thought to have been brought into Fishmongers' Hall unchecked.
However, identification of extremists is the greatest challenge. The Home Office has published five versions of its counter-terrorism strategy since its creation 15 years ago. Still, there is no consensus on how to identify potentially radical individuals. In 2017 alone, there were 400 suspects detained and nine terror plots foiled. However, two out of the six perpetrators of the recent attacks in London were referred to PREVENT at some point before. It’s not known if Usman Khan was ever referred to PREVENT.
Labour welcomes Jammu and Kashmir Liferation Front's endorsement
In the meantime, the former Mayor of the London Borough of Lambeth, has expressed deep concern over the endorsement of the Labour party by terrorist group Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in the December 12 General Election.
In a letter addressed to Labour Party General Secretary Jennie Formby, Dr Neeraj Patil, said the JKLF had kidnapped an Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre in February 1984 in Birmingham. Mhatre was then brutally murdered after failing to secure the release of its founding member Maqbool Bhat from Indian prison. He wrote,
"This organisation also has a long track record of terror offences in India and is designated as a terrorist organisation there.
"I am a strong advocate of peace between India and Pakistan and have a track record of holding many events to bring both the communities closer. I have erected a statue of an Indo-Pakistani philosopher on the bank of River Thames with the support of the Pakistani Muslim community.
"I was very disappointed to note that Luton Labour Party is displaying this letter of endorsement from JKLF on the official Facebook and sending this letter from the JKLF to members of the community via social media."
Dr Patil noted that the Luton Labour party and its official website is displaying and circulating a letter of endorsement by the JKLF.
The letter of endorsement signed by Syed Tahseen Gilani, JKLF President, British Chapter, stated that on behalf of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, they completely supported the Labour Party in the election on December 12.
He has now asked the Labour Party to take remedial measures as a matter of urgency.