Islamic State agents persuaded an undercover reporter to carry out attacks in London in 2016, including targeting the iconic London Bridge, a media report claimed. A special report by BBC Inside Out London claims an agent encouraged one of its journalists to target London Bridge a year before eight people were killed and dozens injured in an ISIS-claimed attack in London Bridge area of the city in June. “In July 2016, we discovered that the terrorist organisation was touting on Twitter and Facebook for British Muslims to stage attacks at specific London locations,” the reporter said.
“We began conversing with one of their recruiters, who then invited us to chat privately on a secret messaging site. The authorities were fully aware of our contact with the terrorist organisation.” The undercover journalist used Twitter to make contact with alleged Birmingham-born ISIS recruiter Junaid Hussain, before he was killed in Syria.
Speaking through an encrypted messaging site, 21-year-old Hussain said he could help to train the undercover reporter on how to make bombs at home. Posing as a 17-year-old boy living with his parents, one reporter was asked by the ISIS recruiter if he knew Westminster.
He was told it was a good target because it was busy and crowded. “If you succeed… it will be huge and damaging for them [the UK],” the recruiter said. In December 2016, a second ISIS agent outlined how such an attack could be carried out. “Make the Kuffar [non-believers] scared. Kill a lot. The best way you can do [it] is to kill normal people,” he said.
In March, Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people and injuring more than 50. He then got out and stabbed to death PC Keith Palmer outside the Houses of Parliament. In June, eight people died and 48 were injured when three men drove at pedestrians on London Bridge before randomly stabbing people in nearby Borough Market. The BBC investigation will increase pressure on the encrypted messaging services used by the agents to work with security services to disrupt terrorist plots.
UK Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “There was definitely usage of encrypted communicating between planners and terrorist and people that carried out some of those dreadful attacks. “That I am afraid is common throughout every one of these incidents and there is also a role of watching videos online to either prepare themselves or train themselves. I think that they are both, I am afraid, current occurrences in these terrorist attacks.”