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Defiance, Fear Loom Large as London District Becomes Focus of UK Terror Probe

  • Henry Ridgwell

Local residents in east London, where the three men who carried out the London Bridge terror attack lived, told VOA of their shock that the terrorists lived in the community.

Twenty-seven-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane both lived in the East London district of Barking. The third terrorist, identified as Youssef Zaghba, also lived in East London.

Butt once worshipped at the local Jabir Bin Zayd mosque, but was reportedly thrown out after a confrontation with the imam over Butt’s extremist views.

Muslim leaders say the mosques are united in their condemnation of the attack.

“All the community leaders, all the mosque authorities, they were saying very strongly that we will not spare anybody if someone does this (terrorism). They are concerned, they are serious, I think, and also community people are serious, because it is harming them, and it is negative for them,” Mukhlesur Chowdhury, a local resident and editor of the newspaper Bangladesh Worldwide told VOA.

Community shaken

Opposite the Jabir Bin Zayd mosque, the British flag hangs at half-staff on the Saint Margaret's Church of England school. Just down the road lies the East London Sikh Gurdwara. Barking residents told VOA all faiths live together in harmony - but many are shaken.

“To tell you the truth, I’m scared to go out to the station now. You can’t even go in the bus now because you are scared,” said Italian immigrant Giuseppe Frisenda.

Muslim communities reject any link with Saturday’s attack. Barking resident Mohammed Zaki fears a backlash against the faith.

“It’s a very friendly environment, the people living here. And there is no such extremism. It’s unacceptable that only Muslims are being targeted around the world, not only in Britain. So they should look, that Muslims are being slaughtered around the world. So how is it possible that only the Muslims are the bad people and the rest are very good people?” Zaki told VOA.

Intelligence services say the two named attackers were known - but there was no evidence an attack was imminent.

Authorities are investigating whether others in the community knew of or helped conceal their extremism. Muslim leaders reject any link with the terrorists and insist they are cooperating fully with police.

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