World

UK election: May's lead dips further after questions raised about police cuts

British PM's record on security under scrutiny as election looms

LONDON Two days from a parliamentary election that has been upended by a van and knife attack that killed seven people in the heart of London, Prime Minister Theresa May's record on security dominated the campaign agenda yesterday.

After police named two of the attackers and revealed that one was previously known to security agencies, Mrs May's Conservative Party faced further questions about her record overseeing cuts to police numbers.

The latest opinion poll, by Survation for ITV, showed the Conservatives' lead narrowing to just one point from six points in the same poll a week earlier.

Police disclosed late on Monday that 27-year-old Khuram Butt, a British citizen born in Pakistan, was known to police and domestic spy agency MI5, but with resources scarce had not been deemed enough of a threat to warrant close monitoring.

Butt had appeared in a documentary called "The Jihadis Next Door", broadcast last year by Britain's Channel 4, as part of a group of men who unfurled an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria flag in a park.

In Britain's third Islamist attack in as many months, Butt and two others rammed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday evening before running into the bustling Borough Market area, where they slit throats and stabbed people.

SHOT

All three were wearing fake explosive belts. They were shot dead at the scene by officers within eight minutes of police receiving the first emergency call.

A Canadian, a French national and a Briton were among the dead, while other French people, a Spaniard, Australians and a New Zealander were among the 48 who were injured in what Mrs May called "an attack on the free world".

As interior minister from 2010 to last year, Mrs May oversaw a drop of 20,000 in the number of police officers in England and Wales, which her main opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said should never have happened and warranted her resignation.

Mrs May hit back that Mr Corbyn himself was weak on the issue of terrorism. He has been criticised for voting against counter-terrorism legislation and expressing reservations about police responding to attacks with "shoot-to-kill" tactics.

Police arrested 12 people on Sunday in Barking, east London, but said late on Monday all had been released without charge. Police were searching an address in Ilford, also in the east of the city, yesterday morning. No one had been detained.

The other attacker who has been named was 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, who also went by the alias Rachid Elkhdar and claimed to be Moroccan or Libyan, police said. He and Butt both lived in Barking.

The third attacker is a Moroccan-Italian man called Youssef Zaghba, according to Italian daily Corriere della Sera. 
- REUTERS

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