- The Magazine
A former Islamist militant fighter will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three gay men in what prosecutors called “an act of religious jihad.”
In June 2020, Khairi Saadallah, 26, embarked on a stabbing spree in a park in Reading, England. Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, David Wails, 49, and James Furlong, 36, were killed and three others were injured in the attack, which lasted less than one minute.
Judge Nigel Sweeney called Saadallah’s spree a terrorist attack and said it was “so swift, ruthless, and brutal that none of them had any chance to react, let alone to defend themselves.”
Witnesses reported that Saadallah yelled “Allahu Akbar” (“God is the greatest”) during the attack, which was conducted with an eight-inch knife.
Sadallah had previously admitted his guilt in regards to the three counts of murder, but refuted the terrorist motive during his hearing at the Central Criminal Court in London, Reuters reports.
According to The Sun, prosecutors claimed that Saadallah’s “brutal attack” was an act of terrorism rooted in “extremist ideology,” referencing social media posts with showed Saadallah holding weapons.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the court that Saadallah “believed that in carrying out this attack he was acting in pursuit of his extremist ideology.”
“An extremist ideology that he appears to have held for some time,” Morgan continued. “He believed that in killing as many people as possible that day he was performing an act of religious jihad.”
She added: “The defendant was ruthlessly efficient in his actions. The prosecution’s case is that the attack perpetrated by this defendant was carefully planned and executed with determination and precision.”
Saadallah, a refugee from Libya, was granted asylum in the U.K. in 2012, after reportedly lying about his history. The court heard that, prior to his asylum application, Saadallah had served with Libyan Islamic militant group Ansar al Sharia — which was later banned.
He was also known to police in Britain, having been arrested and convicted multiple times between 2013 and 2020, and carried out his fatal attack just 15 days after being released from prison for a prior conviction.
While in prison, Saadallah spent time with Omar Brooks, a radical cleric associated with banned jihadist network Al-Muhajiroun.
In his sentencing, Sweeney affirmed that Saadallah would spend the rest of his life in prison for the attack.
“Having no doubt that this is a rare and exceptional case in which just punishment requires that you must be kept in prison for the rest of your life, [I] make a whole life order,” Sweeney said.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, QPM, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, said in a statement that Saadallah was “a committed jihadist and was intent on killing as many people as he could on that sunny summer’s evening in June.”
“As the evidence has shown, Saadallah planned this attack in meticulous detail,” Barnes said. “The men he killed were not just murdered, they were executed at such a speed, they had very little chance to react or defend themselves.”
Barnes continued: “The horrors of this incident took just a single minute to unfold. It took him less than 10 seconds to kill three innocent men, and he then went on to attack and tried to kill another three men… In that tiny timeframe, he changed the lives of all those involved forever.”
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