Exclusive: Prison staff battling ‘to make sure that another outrage won’t happen’ after three terror attacks by released prisoners
Another attack by a released prisoner is “in the pipeline” because of a lack of control over extremists in British jails, the government has been warned.
Convicted terrorist Usman Khan murdered two people at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019, 11 months after he was freed from prison.
Weeks later, two inmates who were part of the same extremist cell at HMP Whitemoor tried to murder a prison officer in an Isis-inspired terror attack.
In February 2020, terror offender Sudesh Amman was shot dead after launching a knife attack in Streatham days after he was freed from jail.
Another released prisoner, Khairi Saadallah, murdered three people in a terror attack at a Reading park last June.
Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who carried out a government-commissioned review of Islamist extremism in prisons, said: “There are good people doing their best to make sure that another outrage won’t happen, but being good isn’t the same as doing well. Another Khan is in the pipeline.”
A prison officer who works in the high-security estate told The Independent he feared there would be more attacks by freed prisoners.
“The new ones that come in with an extremist view leave with a stronger one,” he added. “You’re releasing people onto the streets and you dread to think what’s going to happen.”
The government says it has made significant changes to the way terrorist prisoners are handled, including ending automatic release and improving the sharing of intelligence.
But the officer said there was “no control” over extremist inmates, adding: “No matter what ministers say, everything is not great in UK prisons, it’s appalling.”
Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, is currently undertaking a review of terrorist offending inside jails.
There are concerns that crimes committed by inmates are not being prosecuted, resulting in “lost opportunities to mitigate risk” when they are freed.
Announcing the probe in January, Mr Hall said he mounted the review because of his own concerns, and had not been commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, adding: “Everything is clearly not fine.”
Mr Acheson’s 2016 review sparked the creation of three separation centres that were meant to remove influential terrorists from the general prison population, but only two are currently in use.
The Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquests heard that despite years of intelligence showing Khan was radicalising fellow inmates and involved in violence and disruption, he was not moved to one of the units.
“I find it inconceivable that a man with Khan’s well-understood danger to national security was not even considered for separation let alone isolated,” Mr Acheson said.
He added that evidence revealed at the inquests prompted fresh concerns that the risk posed by jailed extremists was “not being dealt with effectively”.
Hearings were told that Khan was originally jailed in 2012 for trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Kashmir, and remained in contact with his co-defendants while inside prison.
An MI5 officer who gave evidence to the inquests said there “was a suggestion that Khan had become more extreme since entering prison”, and that a fresh investigation was opened into him after he was jailed because of fears he could coordinate terrorist activity from the inside.
Intelligence indicated that Khan declared his wish to carry out an attack upon being released to fellow inmates in 2018.
A senior counter-terrorism police officer told the inquests into his victims’ deaths that “similar intelligence” about attack planning exists in a number of cases.
“It’s not uncommon, that strand of reporting is reminiscent in many investigations and part of that comes down to socialisation within prison establishments,” said Detective Chief Inspector Ryan Chambers.
While in the UK’s highest-security prisons, Khan associated with notorious terrorists including hate preacher Abu Hamza, and became an influential leader in extremist gangs who radicalised vulnerable inmates.
He wrote a poem in his cell about decapitating non-Muslims and collected newspaper clippings related to Isis and jihadists.
One of Khan’s most recent associates, Brusthom Ziamani, had access to a smuggled SD card containing Isis propaganda at HMP Whitemoor.
He and a radicalised violent offender attempted to murder a prison officer while wearing fake suicide vests on 9 January 2020 – six weeks after Khan’s attack at Fishmongers’ Hall.
The Ministry of Justice said that although Khan was not put in a separation centre, he was put under measures aimed at moderating his extremist activities.
A spokesperson added: “We are locking up terrorists for longer and have tough measures in place to prevent them from spreading their poisonous ideology in prison.
“More than 37,000 prison staff have been trained to identify, report and stop such behaviour and a whole range of tools help us to manage extremist offenders.
“These include separation centres, which were introduced shortly before Khan left prison, but also monitoring communications and financial transactions and ensuring the strictest possible conditions on release.”