Police have until Friday to question a man suspected of killing MP Sir David Amess.
Counter-terrorism officers are quizzing a 25-year-old – understood to be Ali Harbi Ali, a British citizen with Somali heritage – who is in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder.
It is thought he was born in the UK after his family fled the war-torn African nation in the 1990s.
He is reportedly the son of a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, with other relatives apparently having been in diplomatic or advisory roles for the country’s government.
The Times said his father Harbi Ali Kullane had confirmed his son had been arrested.
According to unconfirmed reports, Ali went to secondary school in Croydon and is claimed to have trained as an NHS doctor after studying at medical school.
Scotland Yard said the early investigation revealed a “potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism” while official sources told the PA news agency the probe was assuming this was the motivation behind the attack.
But it is understood the suspect was not, and had not previously been, a subject of interest (SOI) for the security services.
MI5 investigates around 3,000 SOIs and has about 600 live investigations at any one time. There are also around 40,000 “closed” SOIs – those who have been looked into previously. Significant numbers of SOIs are overseas.
The security service only investigates SOIs when it believes the individual may pose a threat. This threat will be ranked by priority and resources will be dedicated to them depending on the level of threat they are judged to pose.
As soon as they are no longer deemed to pose a threat, they are downgraded and placed on the closed list. This does not mean they will never pose a threat again, but that their current level of threat is not considered sufficient to prioritise allocating resources to them. This situation could change at any time and be re-assessed.
Some sources have reportedly claimed the suspect has the same details as a man previously referred to Prevent, the anti-terror programme for those thought at risk of radicalisation, some years earlier and the Daily Mail said he had attended an official deradicalisation programme. But there is yet to be any official confirmation of whether this is the case.
Of the 6,287 referrals made to Prevent in the year to March 2020, just over half (51%) were related to “mixed, unclear or unstable ideologies”, 24% were about Islamist radicalisation and 22% were over extreme right-wing radicalisation, according to the Home Office.
Between 2015 and 2020, the programme has “supported” 2,352 people who were identified as “vulnerable to radicalisation”, the Government department said.
Detectives will be following several different lines of enquiry to work out the motive for Sir David’s killing.
Counter-terror police have previously warned of the dangers of more people potentially becoming radicalised during the coronavirus lockdowns while spending more time online.
Sir David’s links to Qatar may be looked at, in light of reports of the Gulf state’s efforts to try to exert influence in Somalia.
He was chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group and most recently visited the country last week.
But it is thought a clear reason for the MP being targeted is yet to emerge, leaving open the possibility this may have been a more random attack.
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