British police say casualties from the London Bridge attack could have been much worse had the attackers succeeded in hiring a 7.5-ton truck instead of a van, which was used to plow through a crowd of pedestrians during the first stage of their bloody onslaught.
Authorities have revealed that terrorists tried to hire a 7.5-ton lorry on the morning of the terrorist attack, but ring leader, Khuram Shazad Butt, had payment issues and the rental was rejected by the online booking system as a result.
“Concerningly, Butt had earlier attempted to hire a 7.5-ton lorry that same morning. When he did not provide payment details, the rental did not go ahead. The effects could have been even worse,” Commander Dean Haydon, head of MPS Counter Terrorism Command said Friday, as cited by the Guardian.
Instead, the attackers settled for a van which they loaded with gravel bags to make the vehicle heavier and thus more deadly on impact, police revealed.
The Renault van, hired from a firm in, Romford, East London, was used by the three terrorists – Rachid Redouane, Youssef Zaghba and Khuram Shazad Butt – to bulldoze people at high speed on London Bridge.
After killing three people and crashing their vehicle, the jihadists abandoned the van and rushed on foot to the nearby Borough Market restaurant area and began to stab people with pink 12-inch ceramic knives. Five more victims died from stabbing wounds, and 48 others were injured in the attack.
“We’ve been working round the clock to understand what these men did in the lead up to the attack, but we need to know more about these unusual knives,” Haydon said.
Police confronted and shot the assailants dead, unloading 46 bullets, after two officers came under direct attack from the jihadists in the busy pub area. One passerby was accidentally shot in the head by a police bullet but his condition is not believed to be serious.
Sharing more details, Haydon revealed that a much worse tragedy was averted by chance as some 13 Molotov cocktails were discovered inside the van. Police believe the suspects intended to use the explosive mixture for another wave of attacks.
Haydon also confirmed that the attackers wore fake suicide belts consisting of plastic water bottles.
In addition, police found an English-language Koran during the search of the suspects’ safe house, which was opened on a page which contained a verse on martyrdom.
While the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has claimed the responsibility for the attack, Haydon said police have so far not found evidence to suggest it was coordinated from abroad, or that the assailants were part of a larger network.
“We’re not looking for a wider network,” said Haydon, adding, however, that authorities are still trying to figure out how exactly this “diverse bunch” came together to commit the terrorist act.
Six people are now in police custody after Metropolitan Police confirmed arresting a 27-year-old man in Ilford, East London on Friday night.The man, whose name has not been released, was detained on suspicion of preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act. Earlier, police released without charge 12 people that had been detained in the ongoing investigation.