Khairi Saadallah, the Reading knifeman

The June 20th knife attack in Reading

At approximately 7 pm on June 20th, an individual armed with a 5 inches-long knife attacked groups of people in Forbury Gardens, a park near the center of Reading, about 40 miles west of London. The attacker, who was also heard shouting incomprehensible words, managed to kill three people and injure three more before being tackled to the ground by a police officer and arrested. The incident was treated by British authorities as “terror-related”.

On 27 June 2020, the suspect was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2020.

The identity of the attacker

The attacker, identified as 25 years-old Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah, had fled the North-African country in 2012 and had a remarkable criminal background in the UK as he was arrested six times for 15 crimes between 2015 and 2019. Saadallah was also diagnosed with PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and paranoid-schizophrenia. It is also interesting to notice how, in a photo of Saaldallah published by the Daily Mail, a forearm shows what seem to be self-inflicted blade wounds.

He had caught the attention of the MI5 over information that he was thinking about heading for Libya or Syria to join the jihadists, but the story was not considered credible.

Khairi Saadallah had been sentenced, in October 2019, to 28 months of prison for breaching a suspended jail term after being charged with assault and knife possession but was released early, just two weeks before the Reading attack (just like Sudesh Mamoor, the Streatham High Road attacker). Saadallah had been involved in the government’s Prevent deradicalization program, just like the Westminster bridge attacker Usman Khan (2019), Parson’s Green bomber Ahmed Hassan (2017) and the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi (2017).

One of Saadallah’s neighbors claimed that a close relative of Khairi had fought in the Libyan civil war against former President Muhammar Ghedafi and according to acquaintances, Khairi had also bragged about having fought against the former regime.

The following day, the AS-Source News Twitter account posted the image of an old “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” card with the photo of a young individual looking very much like Khairi Saadallah and by the name Khairi Jamal Mohamed.

The “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” is known as a former Islamist militia that had also joined the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, before being dismantled. Some of its men had also fought in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

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