A man wearing a “hoax” explosive device stabbed two people during a “terrorism-related” attack on a London street Sunday before he was shot by armed officers who had been carrying out surveillance on him, authorities said.
One stabbing victim was hospitalized with life-threatening wounds following the attack, which took place about 2 P.M. in the Streatham section, a combined residential and commercial neighborhood about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of central London, police said.
Officers responded quickly to the stabbings because of a “proactive counter-terrorism operation” that was underway, London police said.
Sudesh Amman, 20, was named by the police as the attacker. Amman was jailed in the past for promoting violent Islamist material and had encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.
In November 2018 he pleaded guilty to possession of terrorist documents and disseminating terrorist publications, and the following month he was sentenced to more than three years in prison.
He was 17 and living at home with his mother and younger siblings when he first began committing terrorism offences, according to authorities. Police became aware of his activities in April 2018 and he was arrested by armed officers in a north London street a month later.
When officers examined his computers and phone, they found he had downloaded material about making explosives and carrying out terrorist attacks, according to police.
Messages showed that he had discussed with his family, friends and girlfriend his extreme views and desire to carry out an attack, often focused on using a knife, police said.
In December 2017 Amman posted a picture of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed during a U.S. raid in Syria in October, and told his brother in a message that "the Islamic State is here to stay."
He also described Yazidi women as slaves and said the Koran made it permissible to rape them, and in another message he encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.
Police said he had shared an online al-Qaeda magazine with his family and while in a discussion about school with a sibling he wrote he would "rather blow myself up".
Witness Karker Tahir told Sky News that undercover police officers chased Amman down the neighborhood’s main commercial street.
“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,’” Tahir added.
Richard Mustonen-Smith, 59, a street pastor who is trained to work with the police during crisis situations, said he was in shock.
“I’ve been here all my life,″ he said. “We’re always getting accidents down here, but not this.″
The attack 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 the prison where he was serving a 16-year sentence for plotting a terror attack.
British authorities on Nov. 4 reduced the national terror threat level to “substantial,″ meaning an attack is considered likely. That is the third highest level in a five-step alert system used by British authorities and marks the first time the threat level has been so low since Aug. 2014.
Stephen Roberts, a former deputy commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said authorities would try to quickly search the suspect’s residence and seize any computer devices to scour his internet records. Investigators will be researching the man’s background to learn more about the attack and any possible co-conspirators, he said.
Roberts said if the facts show the stabbings were carried out by a “self-starter,” it meant that any city in the country was vulnerable at any time to a similar sort of low-tech attack.
Bell Reberio-Addy, a member of Parliament who represents Streatham, said police have assured her it was an “isolated incident.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised police and emergency workers. 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.”