LONDON: Three people were killed and as many seriously injured after a “Libyan man” went on a frenzied stabbing spree in a park in Berkshire, 40 miles from here, on Saturday evening. Police declared it a terrorist incident on Sunday.
Police, air ambulance, helicopters and ambulance crews rushed to Forbury Gardens in the heart of Reading, Berkshire, around 7pm on Saturday to find people soaked in blood lying on the grass. They were taken to nearby hospitals, where three were declared dead and as many “seriously injured”.
A 25-year-old man from Reading, who was arrested at the scene of the crime on suspicion of murder, was re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 by detectives from Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) on Sunday.
Local media named the suspect as Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan refugee, who came to Britain several years ago following the civil war in Libya.
Deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national coordinator for the counter terrorism policing network, on Sunday morning declared the crime a terrorist incident and said CTPSE will be taking over the investigation.
Eyewitnesses said they saw a man shouting “unintelligible words” fish out a knife and start randomly stabbing about 10 to 12 people in the back of the neck and under the arms. The victims were all sitting in different groups enjoying the evening sunshine. A lone, unarmed police sergeant is reported to have challenged the suspect and arrested him.
Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu, head of counter-terrorism policing, said: “This was an atrocity”.
Home secretary Priti Patel said it was a “senseless attack on people simply enjoying a Saturday evening”.
Agra-born Alok Sharma, PIO MP for Reading West and business secretary, said: “My thoughts are very much with all at Thames Valley Police and others who are dealing with this incident and those who have been affected. This is a horrific and hugely distressing incident. All thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who have died and with those seriously injured.”
A graphic video emerged on social media — which police urged people not to share — showing three people soaked in blood lying on the grass being given first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) by police officers and young members of the public. A Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest had taken place in the same location, concluding around 5pm.
Nieema Hassan, who organised the Reading BLM protest, said the stabbings “had nothing to do with the protests.” She claimed the protests were “very peaceful”. “I am praying for the people who have been affected. I hope they are OK. The people from BLM are all safe and we had all left by the time this happened,” she said in a video posted on Facebook.
Later in the day, detective chief superintendent Kath Barnes, head of CTPSE, said: “The investigation continues to move at a fast pace. We know that the suspect entered into Forbury Gardens in the centre of Reading and attacked members of the public with a knife, leaving three people dead and three people needing hospital treatment… We continue to work with the coroner to formally identify those who have died and to inform and support their relatives.”
Barnes added: “I am appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the attack or who has information that might assist the investigation to contact Thames Valley Police by calling 101 and quoting Operation Vaselike. If you have any videos or footage that you filmed during the incident, please share it with us via www.ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk.”
Police are aware of reports of speculation about the identity of the suspect, but would like to ask people to avoid speculating to protect the integrity of the investigation, he said.
Barnes added: “We continue to work closely with Thames Valley Police and our partners to investigate the motive behind this appalling attack, but we are confident this is an isolated incident.”