The Associated Press and the New York Times were in London early this week for the funeral and memorial ceremonies for Keith Palmer, the police officer killed by Khalid Masood on March 22 as the radical Islamist attempted to make his way towards Westminster Palace after running down and killing four pedestrians and wounding dozens of others in a rented SUV.
Strangely (no, not really), they've ignored several UK press reports showing that Masood, contrary to what was reported in the days immediately following the terror attack, was listed as the contact person at a radical Islamist website, had ties to a mosque that "that urges Muslims to take up arms," and virtually sequestered himself from the outside world — except the internet — for three months before carrying out his attack.
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In a Friday story identifying terror attacks using vehicles as a weapon during the past decade (six of them in the past year), the AP left its readers with the belief that "Police say Masood was inspired by extremist ideology, but that there's no evidence he had direct links to the Islamic State group or al-Qaida." Based on the information in this post, readers will see that this sentence seems like a too-clever dodge. The AP filed unbylined Monday and Tuesday stories on the Palmer memorials without updating readers with new information UK papers have reported in recent days.
The New York Times had its Dan Bilefsky on the scene for the Palmer funeral service. To his credit, the reporter described what Masood did as a "terrorist attack," but then only described Masood himself as "a British-born man with a history of violence."
As recently as March 31, much of the UK press was still describing Masood as a "lone wolf," as seen in this excerpt from the UK Telegraph:
Westminster terror attacker 'staged dummy run' days before the killings
... (Masood's) secrecy has bolstered the theory he was a “lone wolf” jihadist rather than linked to any terror cell.
Security sources told the paper his movements showed he prepared the attack, rather than making a last-minute decision beforehand.
But his actions also suggests he was not a trained terrorist as he would have conducted the dummy run "on the same day of the week, or at least a weekday (and not a Sunday, which is what he did — Ed.), to ensure the security measures and traffic were similar" to the day of the attack, one official said.
It seems pretty thin to base Masood's "lone wolf" characterization on the day of the week he did his test run.
Readers also need to be reminded that the New York Times itself, through reporter Rukmini Callimachi, reported in early February that the whole idea of a genuinely independent lone wolf has now become a typically false characterization. Instead, Masood's attack likely conforms to the following description provided by Callimachi:
... troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.
It now appears likely that Masood had local help in getting radicalized, and internet-based help in planning his attack.
The local radicalization would have come from his involvement with a radical Islamist publication and its sponsoring mosque, as Andrew Gilligan reported at the UK Times on Sunday:
Khalid Masood served as link man for radical mosque
The Westminster killer was public contact for the website of a centre that urges Muslims to take up arms
It was a simple rack of leaflets that gave away the role of the Westminster attacker in one of Britain’s most hardline mosques.
Khalid Masood was a public contact person for calltoislam.com, until last week the main website of the Luton Islamic Centre mosque.
Masood’s name, a phone number that The Sunday Times has confirmed as his, and the calltoislam.com web address appear on stickers attached to leaflets on display at the mosque. ...
... The mosque insists that it condemns terrorism. But material it publishes is extreme.
Sermons available until last week on calltoislam.com, and branded with its logo, urged worshippers to “make ready ... steeds of war (ie weapons) to threaten the enemy of Allah ... We ask Allah that he grant us the ability to pursue the proper means for gaining victory over the Jews and over the rest of the enemies of Islam.”
In another sermon — published on calltoislam.com and delivered at the mosque — its imam, Abdul Qadir Baksh, also known as Abu Saifillah, attacked the government for “scheming” against Muslims ...
... Haras Rafiq, head of the UK’s foremost anti-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, said that security officials believe Masood was radicalised while a worshipper at the mosque.
... Over more than a week the mosque repeatedly refused to deny that Masood was a worshipper. It later claimed he was not and that the sticker had been placed on the leaflet by The Sunday Times “in order to defame us”. The mosque subsequently took calltoislam.com offline but it is still available on web archives.
The evidence that Masood likely got the kind of internet-based help for planning his attack which the New York Times's Callimachi described is in the following Tuesday evening (UK Time) report from the Birmingham Mail which was originally in the UK Mirror:
... Khalid Masood spent the three months leading up to his attack in a flat decorated with an iconic photo of Westminster.
The 52-year-old left his wife and young children to move into a dingy lair above an Edgbaston restaurant where he plotted the bloodbath.
And the Muslim convert cooked his meals in a communal room containing a massive Ikea print of a double-decker London bus.
... Masood moved into the £450 a month room in a shared flat on the Hagley Road last December. For the first week he made repeated demands for the internet to be fixed and seemed “desperate” to get online.
(Flatmate) Ilyas (Ilkgun) says the terrorist had no visitors during the next three months and would spend hours pumping weights. He disappeared from the property just three days before striking at the very heart of London.
... Ilyas, whose door is adjacent to Masood’s, said: “I believe he wanted access to the internet so he could prepare and plan."
It seems plausible that Masood chose to move into the "shared flat" with shared internet so that it would be more difficult to directly trace online activity to him. His former flatmate's description of the terrorist's "repeated demands" and "desperate" need to get online, along with his take on Masood's perceived motivation, speak volumes.
None of this news is making it to the U.S., even though the AP and the New York Times were in London and could hardly have missed it. That's apparently because the beat press wants Americans to buy into the absurd "lone wolf" characterization to which its most knowledgeable reporters like Rukmini Callimachi at the Times itself don't subscribe.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.