Counter-terror police must now establish if Reading attacker acted alone - former military adviser

21 June 2020, 15:32

By Seán Hickey

A former head of counter terrorism told Maajid Nawaz that the next step in the Reading investigations will be to find out if the attacker was a lone wolf.

Major General Chip Chapman is the former head of counter terrorism at the Ministry of Defence and former senior British Military adviser. He joined Maajid Nawaz after a press conference which briefed the authorities' work in catching Khairi Saadallah, the man arrested after allegedly killing three people in Reading on Saturday night.

Maajid pointed out that the authorities have have been given some indication that the attacker is a terrorist after branding the attacks a terrorist incident. He wondered what might have helped the police conclude this.

Major General Chapman told Maajid that "any electronic media they had and of course they raided his house" would be major indicators, but this isn't where the question should now be.

The former counter terrorism head told Maajid that we need to find out "was he sort of a genuine lone wolf or was he radicalised by another group," pointing out that "very rarely are there lone wolves" in terrorist attacks.

Major General Chapman told Maajid that if he was a lone wolf it would make sense why this attack wasn't anticipated. He revealed that it is "very difficult for counter terrorism or MI5 to get them" if people act alone.

Major General Chapman told Maajid that there are still many questions that need to be answered
Major General Chapman told Maajid that there are still many questions that need to be answered. Picture: PA

Maajid wondered if "we have any indication at the moment that it's tied to the civil war in Libya" after reports that the assailant is a Libyan asylum seeker. Major General Chapman was cautious to tell him that "we've got to be very careful to not put a country to this" to avoid an international situation.

"He may have had a mental health vulnerability, that's not an excuse but it is something that people have exploited in the past" he said, noting that a number of terrorist attacks in recent times have found the attacker to be suffering with ill mental health.

Major General Chapman added that questions need to be answered on whether he was "a subject of interest from a counter terrorism point of view.

"We know he was in prison recently, was he radicalised in prison, I'm assuming he's been radicalised" the former adviser noted, pointing out that to have carried out a terrorist attack he has to have been radicalised somehow.

"His ideology rather than his nationality is more important" said the former senior British Military adviser.