MI5 claim it could not have stopped Usman Khan attack despite knowing he wanted to ‘die and go to paradise’


An MI5 agent claimed nothing could be done to stop Usman Khan’s terror attack in London despite intelligence suggesting he wanted to ‘die and go to paradise’.

Khan – who grew up in Cobridge and Tunstall – was one of 3,000 ‘subjects of interest’ to MI5 when he unleashed a devastating attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in Central London on November 29 last year.

The 28-year-old strapped two knives to his hands and wore a fake suicide belt during his bloody rampage where he killed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, and wounded three more people.

An inquest into the deaths, held at Guildhall in the City of London, heard that Khan was allowed to attend the prisoner rehabilitation event despite concerns he would ‘return to his old ways’ after being released from prison on terror offences.

A senior MI5 officer, known only as Witness A for legal reasons, said security services remained sceptical of Khan but there was no concerns over his attendance at the event.

She said: “At that time, there was no intelligence to suggest he should not be allowed to attend.

“On the flip side, preventing someone from doing something can have ramifications.”

The witness told the court that MI5’s review after the Fishmongers’ Hall attack concluded that it “could not have taken any actions or materially changed the outcomes of this case”.

It added: “The investigative and operational decisions taken by MI5 in this case were sound.”

The witness – giving evidence from inside a white cube – said detective Khan’s preparations would have required 24/7 surveillance which on the intelligence available would have been “disproportionate, likely unjustified, and probably unlawful”.

However, when quizzed what MI5 would have done if it knew Khan had bought items, including four kitchen knives, from around Stafford, he would have been arrested.

The witness told the hearing security services first became aware of Khan in 2008, as a member of terror group al-Muhajiroun (ALM).

He was linked to a plot to attack the London Stock Exchange and jailed for planning a terror camp abroad.

He had also been linked to violence in prison.



Usman Khan buying gaffer tape at a supermarket prior to the Fishmongers’ Hall attack.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, asked: “Was there also evidence he wanted to die and go to paradise?”

Witness A replied: “There was information to that effect.”

Jurors were told that Khan had retained contact with his co-defendants and other terrorists outside prison.

But, in 2015, MI5 took the decision to close its investigation into him.

Asked whether, in hindsight, she feels that was the right decision, Witness A replied: “I do.

“We had carried out quite a significant period of investigation while he was in prison, we received a steady stream of intelligence while in prison, and we saw no activities of national security concern, therefore it was the right time to close the investigation.”

She added: “We cannot investigate people forever.”



Usman Khan pictured in 2010

Jurors heard that MI5 opened a new investigation into Khan in August 2018 in readiness for his release into the community in December.

Agents went on to carry out heightened surveillance on Khan and remained “sceptical” that he may be complying with the terms of his release in order to avoid scrutiny.

At a meeting on November 18 2019, MI5 found out about the trip to London but was unaware of the date, the venue or who would be there, the court heard.

Witness A told jurors that, at the time, security services were looking to close their investigation into Khan and saw the Learning Together date as an opportunity to gain reassurance from enhanced surveillance.

She confirmed that the risk of attack planning was not discussed at the joint operations team meeting nor the potential risk of Khan going to the London event.

Mr Hough said: “Looking back, even without the awful knowledge of the attack that followed, would you not accept that there ought to have been some consideration at this stage of the risk of the event, even if only to decide the risk was limited and was a risk that could be properly taken?”

Witness A conceded: “I think given the awful tragedy that occurred, it would certainly have been helpful to have that discussion at this meeting.”

The inquest continues.

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