Reading attack: "We mustn't speculate" on attackers motivations, warns government adviser

21 June 2020, 12:47

By Seán Hickey

A terrorism and counter terrorism expert warned the public against speculating on the motivations of the Reading attacker.

Dr Afzal Ashraf is a Professor at The University of Nottingham specialising in terrorism and counter terrorism and is also a senior government advisor. He joined Iain Dale to give an instant reaction to the announcement that the stabbings in Reading on Saturday night have been declared as a terrorist attack.

Dr Ashraf told Iain that the police counter terrorism unit has "obviously found some information to suggest that this individual was linked to a terrorist organisation or possibly linked to a terrorist organisation."

He shared his faith in the expertise of the unit to "investigate this type of potential attack" and how we cannot act in anticipation of any findings of the police.

Iain pointed out that the assailant has been confirmed as a Libyan asylum seeker and seeing as the Manchester bomber was also Libyan, he asked Dr Ashraf if there could be a correlation there.

Counter terrorism police declared that the stabbing in Reading was a terrorist incident
Counter terrorism police declared that the stabbing in Reading was a terrorist incident. Picture: PA

"It's too early to tell whether there is any link" the counter terrorism expert noted. He told Iain that in the UK the rise in these attacks are generally from countries whose citizens have been displaced by "western powers" and there tends to be a "feeling amongst a small group of people that they need to be held to account for what happened there."

"It would be dangerous to draw any conclusions too soon" Dr Ashraf said, adding that it could even be the case that the attacker had no affiliations at all and acted alone.

"This sort of attack does not require much support or capability" he said, which goes under the radar of counter terrorism units as "many attacks are detected through preparation work."

The counter terrorism expert told Iain that we "mustn't speculate too much" before we hear more from investigators on the motives, links and affiliations of the Reading attacker.