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U.K. park stabbings that killed 3 was a terror attack, police say

A stabbing rampage that killed three people as they sat in a British park on a summer evening is being considered a terrorist attack, police said Sunday. A 25-year-old man who is believed to be the lone attacker is in custody.

Man identified in reports as Libyan asylum-seeker arrested after attack in Reading's Forbury Gardens park

U.K. stabbing deemed terror attack

The National

12 months ago
1:52
Officials in the U.K. say a stabbing in Reading on Saturday that killed at least three people was a terror attack. 1:52

A stabbing rampage that killed three people as they sat in a British park on a summer evening is being considered a terrorist attack, police said Sunday. A 25-year-old man who is believed to be the lone attacker is in custody.

Authorities said they were not looking for any other suspects and they did not raise Britain's official terrorism threat level from "substantial."

Three people were killed and three others seriously wounded in the stabbing attack that came out of the blue Saturday in Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a city of 200,000 people 64 kilometres west of London.

"Motivation for this horrific act is far from certain," said Neil Basu, Britain's top counterterrorism police officer, as police forensics officers combed the park for evidence.

Chief Const. John Campbell of Thames Valley Police said officers were called to reports of stabbings just before 7 p.m. and arrived to find a "horrific" scene. He said a suspect was apprehended within five minutes.

A man places flowers next to a fence at the scene of multiple stabbings in Reading, just west of London. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Basu said "incredibly brave" unarmed officers detained a 25-year-old local man at the scene. The Thames Valley force later said counterterrorism detectives were taking over the investigation.

"There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public," said Det. Chief Supt. Ian Hunter.

Reports say suspect lived in Reading

Police have not identified the suspect, but Britain's national news agency, Press Association, and other media outlets named him as Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan asylum-seeker living in Reading.

A Reading man of that name who is the same age as the suspect was sentenced to two months in prison last year for assaulting an emergency worker. The same man was also charged last year with assaulting a judge who had sentenced him.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who met security officials, police and senior ministers on Sunday for an update on the investigation, said he was "appalled and sickened" by the attack.

"If there are lessons that we need to learn" or legal changes needed to prevent such attacks, "then we will learn those lessons and we will not hesitate to take action where necessary," Johnson said.

Police officers patrolled cordons on the roads leading to the park on Sunday, and blue-and-white tents were erected near the attack site. Overnight, heavily armed officers entered an apartment about a mile away, and a loud bang was heard.

Notes and bunches of flowers had been left Sunday by the police tape in tribute to the victims.

"There are no words that anyone can say to express how horrible and senseless this was," one said. "Our prayers are with all the victims and their families and friends."

A police officer stands behind a barrier on Sunday near the scene of the stabbings. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

The attack came hours after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Forbury Gardens, but police said there was no connection between the two events.

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort said the park was full of groups sitting on the grass Saturday evening when "one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them."

"He stabbed three of them severely in the neck and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running," Wort said.

Armed police officers investigate near apartment units off Basingstoke Road in Reading early Sunday after the stabbing at Forbury Gardens park. (Steve Parsons/Press Association via The Associated Press)

Britain has been hit by several terror attacks in recent years, both by people inspired by the Islamic State group and by far-right extremists. Islamist-inspired attacks include a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people in 2017 and two deadly vehicle and knife attacks in London the same year.

In several cases, attackers have been known to police. In November, a man who had been released after serving a prison sentence for a terrorism offence stabbed two people to death at a justice conference in London.

In February, a man recently released from prison after serving time for terrorism-related offences strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a busy London street before being shot to death by police. No one else was killed.

Britain's official terrorism threat level stands at "substantial," the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.

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