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British Police Release Details About 2 Suspects In London Terror Attack

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel with the latest on the aftermath of Saturday night's terror attack in London. Police there have named 2 of the 3 assailants who killed seven people and injured dozens more on London Bridge and nearby. And just days before voters in the United Kingdom go to the polls, Prime Minister Theresa May is facing tough questions about whether her government has done enough to stop terrorism.

NPR's Frank Langfitt joins us with more from London. And Frank, first let's talk about the men the police have identified. Who are they?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yeah, the first man was Khuram Shazad Butt, 27 years old, a British citizen born in Pakistan - the second guy, Rachid Redouane, 30. He claimed to be Moroccan or Libyan. Police say that they and MI5 - that's the domestic security agency here - were aware of Butt, but there was no intelligence that an attack was coming. And the other thing is that both of these men lived in Barking, which is a multicultural, working-class area east of London. Police are working to identify the third attacker.

SIEGEL: And have you been able to learn anything more about the two men who have been identified?

LANGFITT: Yeah, I did. I actually spent the afternoon in Butt's neighborhood, in Barking. Police made big raids there and arrests on Sunday. I was talking to a neighbor named Michael Mimbo who knew Butt casually. He said he saw him with the van Friday that he believes, and then police said, he and his accomplices used to drive down the bridge, London Bridge, and run over the pedestrians on Saturday night. Mimbo says that Butt was a personable guy, liked to talk about their favorite soccer team, Arsenal. But he did notice over the years he'd become a bit more devout. Here's what Mimbo said.

MICHAEL MIMBO: Personality was really cool guy, interactive, very easygoing. When I first met him, he had a shorter beard. Over the years, the beard grew longer and was more in casual Islamic clothing.

SIEGEL: And did neighbors have concerns about Butt?

LANGFITT: Yeah, they did, Robert. There's a woman named Erica Gasparri. She lived near - lives nearby. She said that Butt tried to proselytize her young son in a local park and that he had told the son that he was ready to do whatever he needed in the name of Allah, including taking lives, she said. She took pictures of him, warned police. This was two years ago. She says she never heard back. I was talking to her husband this afternoon, and he says he wishes police had done more. Maybe it could have prevented what happened on Saturday night.

SIEGEL: And was it that call - does that account for police saying that they knew about him?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, Robert, that would be one reason. But there's even, frankly, a more obvious one. Butt actually appeared briefly in a TV documentary on Channel 4 called "The Jihadi Next Door." It was about extremist preachers here and their followers in London. And he was shown actually with extremists in Regent's Park with an ISIS flag, praying.

SIEGEL: Now, Theresa May's Conservative Party is still ahead in the polls heading into Thursday's vote. How have these attacks affected the election campaign?

LANGFITT: Well, it's made this issue, security, front and center, which nobody of course anticipated. Keep in mind we've had three attacks in just - less than two and a half months. Theresa May has been talking most recently about getting tougher on the Internet in terms of preventing people from recruiting Islamist terrorists, getting tough on extremist groups on - here on the ground.

But today after a speech, she got a lot of tough questions about police cuts that she made when she was home secretary for a number of years. And this is an uncomfortable time to be playing defense. The Labour Party is asking for her resignation. Of course that's not going to happen. But Labour also has its own problems. Its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is generally seen as soft on terrorism - so a very mixed picture here in the final days.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, thanks.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.