A 19-year-old Norwegian man of Somali descent has been identified as the suspect accused of killing a woman and wounding five other people in a stabbing attack at London’s Russell Square.
The accused attacker was named by Sky News as Zakaria Bulhan. Police used a stun gun to take him down at the scene of the attack Wednesday night, according to a press release from London Metropolitan Police. He remains in custody on suspicion of murder.
Investigators have found no connections to terrorism so far, and say mental health issues played a major role in the random attack.
An American woman, Darlene Horton, has been identified as the victim killed in the attack. One of the male victims, who was stabbed in the stomach, remains hospitalized in serious condition, but is expected to survive. The four other victims have been released from the hospital.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bulhan, Who Moved to the UK When He Was 5, Was ‘Bullied’ at a London High School, the Daily Mail Reports
Zakaria Bulhan moved to Britain from Norway in 2002, when he was 5, Norwegian police said in a statement. It is not clear if he was born in Somalia, where his parents are from, or in Norway, but he is a citizen of the Scandinavian country.
Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said it will be assisting Scotland Yard in its probe of the attack.
Bulhan was a “quiet, shy pupil who was bullied at his London secondary school,” the Daily Mail reports.
Former friends from Graveney School in south London said Bulhan, a Chelsea football an, was “quite quiet,” but had friends, according to the Daily Mail. The classmates told the Daily Mail “he was a little bullied but nothing too extreme.”
A motive for the stabbing attack has not been determined, though police have stressed that mental health issues played a role.
“Our specialist detectives from the murder and terrorism teams have been working hard throughout the night. The investigation is fast paced and making urgent progress,” Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rawley said in a statement. “Whilst the investigation is not yet complete – all of the work that we have done so far, increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental health issues. At this time we believe this was a spontaneous attack and the victims were selected at random.”
Police investigators have searched Bulhan’s home, interviewed him, spoken with his family, talked to witnesses and conducted a “full intelligence review of the suspect,” Rawley said.
2. Police Say They Have Found ‘No Evidence of Radicalization’ or Anything Suggesting He Was Motivated by Terrorism
Investigators have not yet found any ties to terrorism, despite the involvement of counter-terrorism police in the probe of the stabbings, Scotland Yard said.
“This morning we have searched an address in north London and will search another in south London,” police spokesman Mark Rawley said. “So far we have found no evidence of radicalization or anything that would suggest the man in our custody was motivated by terrorism.”
Rawley mentioned the fact the suspect is Norwegian national, of Somali ancestry, and said, “I stress though that all the work we have done does not suggest those are relevant to the motivation for his actions.”
Police said they responded to Russell Square just after 10:30 p.m. and found six people with injuries. A woman in her 60s was pronounced dead a short time later.
Two other women and three men were injured.
According to police, the suspect, a 19-year-old man, was arrested at 10:39 p.m., just minutes after the attack was reported. He was hit with a Taser by one of the arresting officers, police said.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room on 020 8721 4868; or, to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111,” police said.
But some ISIS supporters have celebrated the attacks on social media and other channels.
3. Bulhan Was a Patient at a Mental Health Facility Near Russell Square, Police Say
A law enforcement source told CBS News that Bulhan was a patient at a mental health facility located near Russell Square.
Police have not detailed the mental health issues they say Bulhan suffered from.
The source told CBS News that Bulhan was walking around Russell Square, found the knife and then began attacking people, stabbing them because he thought they were following him.
We understand that the Police have released an update about the tragic incident at Russell Square stating that mental health is an increasingly significant factor in this case. The media must rightly report on this angle but we encourage them to do so responsibly.
There have been a number of horrendous acts of violence committed across Europe over recent weeks. As the media look to unpick these extremely complex incidents to explore motivations and reason we urge journalists and editors to provide well informed and balanced coverage of mental health.
Millions of people experience mental health problems every year and the overwhelming majority will never pose a risk to others.
The campaign says on its website, “Mental health problems are common – but nearly nine out of ten people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves. Time to Change is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.”
4. The American Victim Slain in the Attack Was Planning to Return Home on Thursday
They were set to return home to Florida on Thursday, August 4, a day after the attack.
The Sun reports that Horton’s chilling last words were, “He’s still here, he’s still here.”
One witness, a Brazilian man named Fernando, told Sky News, that Horton “had her head in a Spanish woman’s lap, the lady, who was trying to keep her alive by talking to her… The lady from the Spanish family told me that the guy had passed by, running, stabbing people.”
A British man who was stabbed in the stomach during the attack remained hospitalized Thursday in serious, but stable condition. His name and age have not been released.
The other victims include two Australians, an American and and Israeli, police said.
Israeli victim Yovel Levkowski, 18, was slashed in the arm and hand during the attack, reports the Daily Mirror. The tabloid adds that Levkowski was inadvertently tried to help Bulhan because she thought he was trying to escape the attack.
An American man was stabbed in the chest. An Australian man also suffered a stab wound to the chest. The Australian woman was stabbed in the back.
Those three victims, who have not been named, and Levkowski, were released from the hospital by Thursday morning.
5. Police Deployed Extra Armed Officers Around London After the Attack as a Precaution
Although police have not found any indications of terrorism, Scotland Yard and city officials said additional armed officers were deployed around the city Thursday as a precaution.
“This attack will cause concern. So as a precautionary measure we have increased the number of officers out on the streets today and that will continue for as long as we need it to,” Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Rawley said in a statement. “I want everyone who is out and about in London today – our residents; businesses or visitors – to know that the Met is totally committed to doing everything we can do to protect you.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement Thursday morning calling for calm and vigilance while the full facts are determined:
The safety of all Londoners is my number one priority and my heart goes out to the victims of the incident in Russell Square and their loved ones.
I have spoken with the Commissioner, and the Assistant Commissioner, who have assured me that our police officers are working extremely hard to investigate exactly what has happened and to keep the rest of us safe. A man was arrested at the scene. Police have spoken to him and are seeking to establish the full facts including motives for this attack.
I urge all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant. Please report anything suspicious to the police. We all have a vital role to play as eyes and ears for our police and security services and in helping to ensure London is protected.
Our police officers are doing an incredibly difficult job on our behalf and they have my full support.
Wednesday night’s stabbings came just hours after the Metropolitan Police announced the number of armed officers on patrol would be increased in a counterterrorism effort following attacks around Europe.
“Hercules is part of the Met’s commitment to delivering extra armed officers to protect London against the threat of terrorism,” police said in a press release. “The Mayor has welcomed the Commissioner’s increase of 600 additional firearms officers to protect London against any attack. The first are now fully trained and operationally ready.”
Police said the public would see armed officers on foot and in vehicles.
Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe issued a statement about the armed officers:
Anyone who’s been following events in Europe over the past few weeks will understand why we want to show our determination to protect the public. We are deadly serious about the protection that we are offering the people of London and we will never be complacent.
That’s why I’m increasing the visibility and the number of armed officers on London’s streets, and demonstrating some of the range of tactics we already have to protect the public from all manner of threats.
I want the public to know that we have substantial resources and a range of tactics that we can call on to protect them.
The reality of having to deal with armed and deadly attackers is that you need firearms officers who will use force to stop those attackers in their aim. Our firearms officers are the ones who will run towards the danger. They are our heroes.
Despite the fact they are carrying guns they are still police officers and I want the public to approach and talk to them, they are out on our streets to reassure and help the public.
Equally important in how we protect our capital is the relationship that our mainly unarmed officers have built with communities over many years. Our communities are a vital source of information and if you have fears or concerns then we want to know.
Mayor Khan also issued a statement prior to the attacks:
The safety and security of all Londoners is my first priority, and our police and security services are working incredibly hard every day on our behalf.
“The threat level here in London has not changed, but it does remain at severe and especially in light of recent deadly attacks in Europe it is important we are prepared should the unthinkable happen.
We will see more armed officers on our streets, but there is no reason to be alarmed. All of our police officers are playing their part and working closely with all of our communities to prevent the possibility of an attack.
That is why we are returning to real neighbourhood policing with a second dedicated PC in every London ward by the end of next year, to be the eyes and ears of our security services and build trust in our communities.
Our armed response teams do a very difficult job. They put their own lives at risk every day and are at the front line of protection for Londoners across our city.
Met police said the increase in the number of armed officers was not “based on any specific intelligence,” but is a “long term response to best use the increasing number of armed officers the Met has to make London as hostile an environment as possible for any would-be attacker.”
Police said the locations, tactics and number of officers will continually change for effectiveness and to avoid predictability.
Russell Square was the site of one of the July 7, 2005, London bombings.
Four Islamic attackers detonated suicide bombs in central London, including one on a train traveling from King’s Cross St. Pancras to Russell Square.
The coordinated suicide bombings killed 52 people and wounded hundreds more.
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