LONDON: A Libyan asylum seeker who carried out a terrorist attack in the British town of Reading fought for a terrorist group in his home country and lied about it during his asylum application, a court has heard.
Khairi Saadallah was a combatant during the Libyan civil war, where he fought for a group called Ansar Al-Sharia, which was later proscribed as a terrorist outfit by Britain and many other Western nations.
Saadallah, 26, had been imprisoned following numerous violent and criminal offenses in Britain, and was informed a day before his release in June 2020 that he was due to be deported from the country.
Two weeks later, he stabbed and killed three people who were socializing in Forbury Gardens, Reading, while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
Despite vast amounts of evidence provided by the prosecution claiming that he possessed an “extremist Islamist ideology,” Saadallah has denied a terroristic motivation behind his murders.
On the first day of the trial, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said: “The defendant believed that in carrying out this attack he was acting in pursuit of his extremist ideology — an ideology that he appears to have held for some time. In short, he believed that in killing as many people as possible that day he was performing an act of religious jihad.”
When Saadallah arrived in the UK in 2012, he told Home Office officials that he had been helping wounded civilians during the conflict in his home country. He further claimed that he had fled from the group when he was asked to carry out torture.
However, Morgan said information taken from his personal electronic devices had disproven his claims, showing photos of Saadallah wearing military fatigues and posing with weapons.
Following his attack in Reading last year, Saadallah admitted to psychologists that he was a member of Ansar Al-Sharia, stating that he fought with the outfit for eight months and claiming that he was given training by the French military.
On June 4 — while imprisoned after one of his many convictions — he was informed that the home secretary had determined that his deportation would be for the “public good.”
But due to ongoing violence in Libya, the UK could not commit to his safety in his home country, so Saadallah was released from prison on strict conditions and with mandatory mental health treatment.
In the days following his release, Saadallah carried out internet searches for violent material from the Libyan civil war, ignored his probation officer and mental health appointments, and purchased a large kitchen knife.
The court played footage of the attack, which showed Saadallah sprinting toward his victims and stabbing them from behind.
“The prosecution alleges that what took place was ruthless and lethal,” Morgan said. “In short, he executed Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, David Wails and James Furlong and it was done with such speed and precision, before they had time to even be aware of what was happening, less still to be able to react to defend themselves.”
A judge will soon decide if there was a religious, political or ideological motivation for Saadallah’s attack, and to what degree his mental state affected his actions. The sentencing hearing continues.