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World & Nation

Third London attacker had been flagged as a person of risk

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Police say Youssef Zaghba was one of the attackers fatally shot by authorities after a terrorist attack in London.
(Metropolitan Police Service)

British police on Tuesday named the third London Bridge attacker as 22-year-old Youssef Zaghba, an Italian national of Moroccan descent who lived in east London.

“He was normal, happy to say ‘buongiorno, buonasera,’ said Franco Bortolini, 77, an upstairs neighbor to Zaghba’s mother in the village of Fagnano, near Bologna. “He was a good boy, just like his mother. I never imagined something like this would happen.”

Locals in the tiny Italian village said Tuesday that they could not believe the nice kid they knew was one of the three men who took part in a terrorist attack in London on Saturday.

Police said he had not been a “subject of interest” to police or the intelligence service MI5, but Italian media reported Tuesday that he was previously stopped from leaving the city of Bologna for Turkey in 2016 amid concerns he was trying to get to Syria.

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Officials in Italy said he was flagged as a person of risk to both the British and Moroccan authorities at the time. Zaghba was shot to death by police Saturday night in Borough Market, a popular southeast London nightspot full of bars and restaurants.

Zaghba was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1995, to a Moroccan father, Mohammed Zaghba and an Italian mother, Valeria Collina. Collina later left her husband to move back to Italy, taking an apartment in Fagnano, where she had family.

He was with two accomplices also from east London. Police named them on Monday as Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a British citizen who was born in Pakistan, and Rachid Redouane, 30, who claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan.

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Butt was known to British authorities, but they said they had no intelligence to suggest he was planning an attack. He had previously been featured in a documentary that aired last year on Channel 4 in Britain titled, “The Jihadis Next Door.”

Butt moved to the U.K. with his mother and father in 1997, according to his uncle, Nasir Dar, 60, a resident of Jhelum, about 65 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

“He came back to Pakistan only twice since then,” Dar told the Los Angeles Times. “Once in 2008 or 2009 and last time in 2013 with his wife.”

Dar said his nephew was a very private person.

“His father died when he was 9 and a half years old. I visit my sister’s home in U.K. almost every 2-3 years. I used to have least interaction with him as he always kept busy but he was a normal guy,” Dar said.

“Then by mid-2012 he became friends with some black Muslims and some Arabic-speaking Muslims,” he said. “He also left wearing pants, jeans and shirts and started wearing Pakistani and Arabic dress. Once during my visit to his home in U.K., I asked him the reason why he had left wearing Western clothes. He told me that Arabic and Pakistani dresses are more comfortable. I didn’t investigate it more.

“He started becoming more religious after his marriage back in 2013,” Dar said. By then, almost 90% of his friends were only Arabic speaking or black Muslim. The family didn’t paid heed as we thought becoming more religious means becoming a better human being.”

Dar said Butt told him he had a son and daughter. “His daughter is only 1 month old.”

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Dar went on to say his nephew committed a barbaric act.

“My heart goes out when I think about all those families who lost their loved ones because of Khuram,” he said. “He was managed by some elements in the name of religion and motivated to commit such a heinous crime. The people who radicalized him were so secretive that neither his mother, brother, sister and wife, nor his neighbor could get a sense of how dangerous he had become.

“He had started living separately from his mother and other siblings after his marriage,” Dar said. “And they knew nothing about his activities. London police arrested some of his close family members but all are released today as police didn’t find any link of them in his brutal act.”

Butt and the other two mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before entering Borough Market with knives, slashing random diners and pub-goers who were enjoying a night out.

Seven people were killed and dozens injured; 32 people remained hospitalized, with 15 in critical condition.

The dead include Australian nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, who was working in Britain.

Her family said she was killed after running toward the injured on London Bridge in an attempt to help them.

“We are so proud of Kirsty’s brave actions which demonstrate how selfless, caring and heroic she was, not only on that night, but throughout all of her life. Kirsty — we love you and we will miss you dearly,” her family said in a statement.

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Canadian Chrissy Archibald died in the arms of her fiance on the bridge. And the family of Londoner James McMullan say they believe he is also among the deceased after police confirmed they had found his bank cards on a body at the scene.

After the attacks, a massive security operation was swiftly launched to determine if the three men acted alone or were part of a larger network.

Authorities arrested 12 people on Sunday as part of the investigation, but they have been released without charge.

Authorities arrested two men Tuesday and are searching an address in Barking, east London.

The London Bridge attack is the third terrorist incident to hit Britain in less than three months and the second in a matter of weeks.

On May 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up as concertgoers filed out of Manchester Arena, killing himself and 22 others and injuring more than 100. Two months earlier, there was a vehicle-and-knife attack on London’s Westminster Bridge.

The spate of attacks has brought the issue of policing and security to the forefront of a general election taking place Thursday.

Theresa May’s record as home secretary, a post she held from 2010 until last year when she took over as prime minister, has been called into question as she presided over a 20,000 drop in police numbers.

The terrorist threat level remains at severe nationwide, meaning another attack is likely, and questions are being raised about how well-equipped Britain currently is to deal with these kinds of attacks.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Tuesday that it is not possible to stop all potential terrorists from following through on their plans.

A minute of silence was held across the country at 11 a.m., with office workers, motorists and emergency workers coming to a standstill in a mark of respect for the dead and injured.

Special correspondents Boyle reported from London and Sahi from Islamabad. Special correspondent Tom Kington contributed to this report from Italy.

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UPDATES:

4:00 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information about two of the attackers.

9 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.

4:20 a.m.: This article was updated with information about another victim.

This story was originally published at 3:50 a.m.


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