A man who fought for an Islamist militant group as a teenager in Libya was jailed for the rest of his life on Monday for murdering three men in a stabbing spree in a park in England last year in what the judge said was a terrorist attack, reports Reuters.
Libyan Khairi Saadallah, 26, used an 8-inch (20 cm) knife to kill the three men and attacked others in the park in the southern English town of Reading on a balmy summer evening on June 20.
Witnesses heard him shout "God is greatest" in Arabic during the incident, and he later told police that what he had done was "Jihad" and he would go to paradise as a result, Judge Nigel Sweeney said.
"His attack was so swift, ruthless, and brutal that none of them had any chance to react, let alone to defend themselves," Sweeney said.
Saadallah pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder in November and his defence team argued that he was suffering from a mental disorder. But the judge rejected this and said he had made crude attempts to portray himself as "mad" in police interviews.
"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 told him.
Whilst in Libya as a teenager in 2011, Saadallah fought as a member of the Islamic militia Ansar al-Sharia, which is now banned, during and after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
He came to Britain in 2012 and was granted asylum after lying about his past, and maintained his extremist views, Sweeney said in sentencing remarks. Saadallah, who had six previous convictions, had only been released from prison for another offence 15 days before the attack.
During the 2020 attack in Britain, Saadallah targeted a group of seven friends, stabbing three fatally – James Furlong, 36, and David Wails, 49, from Britain, and US national Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39.
Another of the group required 28 stitches to a head wound. Two other men who were sitting with friends nearby were also stabbed, one in the back while the other suffered a cut to his cheek.
"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 before running off towards the town centre," said Kath Barnes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing in the southeast of England.