London - British anti-terror police were on Tuesday questioning a suspected jihadist over the attempted murder of three victims in a frenzied New Year’s Eve knife attack.
A 25-year-old man armed with two knives was wrestled to the ground by police after the attack at Manchester’s Victoria rail station.
The suspect could be heard screaming ‘Long live the Caliphate’ – a reference to Islamic State’s enclave in the Middle East – and ‘Allahu Akbar’, or ‘God is greatest’, as he was led away to a police van.
The attack came after foreign jihadists urged extremists in Britain to bring ‘horror and misery’ over the festive season.
Officers on Tuesday raided a house a mile from the scene of the rampage. Neighbours said it was home to a Somali family with four sons and a daughter.
A witness to the attack said the knifeman had earlier shouted: ‘As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of s*** is going to keep happening.’
A man in his 50s suffered multiple injuries while his partner, also in her 50s, had a serious head wound. A police sergeant in his 30s was stabbed in the shoulder as officers swooped on the attacker, but was discharged from hospital soon afterwards, None of the injuries are life-threatening.
The attack took place just a few hundred yards from Manchester Arena, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017. The stabbings on the Metrolink tram platform at the station were witnessed by BBC producer Sam Clack. He told how he saw a man ‘all dressed in black’ beside a couple with the woman ‘screaming in a blood- curdling way’.
Mr Clack added: ‘He came towards me. I looked down and saw he had a kitchen knife with a black handle with a 12-inch blade. It was just fear, pure fear.’
He said police used a taser and pepper spray before ‘six or seven’ officers jumped on the man and held him down.
Passengers rushed to the aid of the victims, including a wellwisher wearing a hijab. Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal wrote on Twitter: ‘The woman with hijab helping victims is far more reflective of Muslims than the idiot with a knife.’
Police sources said the suspect refused to give officers his identity after being arrested for attempted murder. Yesterday, as officers searched a semi-detached house in Cheetham Hill, neighbours said a family of Somali origin had lived at the housing association property for around ten years. Resident Nousha Babaakachel, 40, said it was occupied by a former nurse and her husband along with four sons and one daughter.
She said the eldest son worked at Manchester Airport while two other children are at university. The youngest son is believed to have been involved in an incident involving a knife at his school and is now back in Somalia. The family are said to attend the local mosque.
Assistant chief constable Russ Jackson, of Greater Manchester Police, said he believed the attacker had acted alone and detectives were ‘keeping an open mind’ over his motivation.
Chief constable Ian Hopkins insisted the fact ‘that the incident happened so close to the scene of the terrorist attack on May 22, 2017 makes it even more dreadful’.
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham branded the assault ‘vile’ and appealed to residents to ‘remain vigilant’.
Yesterday Theresa May paid tribute to police bravery, saying: ‘My thoughts are with those who were injured in the suspected terrorist attack in Manchester last night. I thank the emergency services for their courageous response.’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: ‘Can’t praise police and emergency services response enough – swift and brave.’Daily Mail