THE Reading terror suspect quizzed over the stabbing deaths of three people had claimed to be an ISIS fighter and child soldier who fought Colonel Gaddafi, it was claimed today.
Khairi Saadallah was a ticking timebomb who had left jail just 16 days before the terror attack unfolded in a Reading park on Saturday.
And it was today revealed the 25-year-old had travelled to the UK as an illegal immigrant in 2012 before being granted asylum in 2018.
The Telegraph reported the asylum seeker had boasted to friends he had been forced to leave Libya for fighting to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi as a child.
One pal said: “He would describe himself as a Libyan soldier and said he had escaped because he didn’t want to be in the army.”
And his erratic claims also saw him tell pals he had fought for and against ISIS – with the Times reporting that his comments had been linked to mental health problems.
Teacher James Furlong was the first of the three victims of Saturday’s horror in Reading, Berks, to be named.
His pal Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, was today named as the second victim.
And background of the suspected knifeman continued to emerge today as it was claimed he called himself the Khairi thug.
Family friends claimed that the young man had been at risk in Libya as he did not lead a strict religious life and had girlfriends.
And it was claimed he converted to Christianity three years ago while in the UK after he started to date a “very religious” British woman.
The Libyan asylum seeker, 25, was also on medication for post traumatic stress and a suspected personality disorder before his release from prison 16 days ago.
ON MI5’S RADAR
And in 2018 he was granted leave to remain in the UK for five years despite convictions for violence.
Anti-terror cops probing Saturday’s Reading park horror in which three died and three were critically injured believe he may have stopped taking medication that curbed his rage.
A source said: “Saadallah was on MI5’s radar for a few months last year over his aspirations to travel to Syria.
“He had a history of violence and serious mental health problems so why was he granted leave to remain at all? There are major questions to be answered.”
Relatives said Saadallah arrived in the UK in 2012 claiming asylum because he was terrified of Islamic extremists back home.
He had a history of violence and serious mental health problems so why was he granted leave to remain at all? There are major questions to be answered.
A cousin in Libya said: “I can’t believe he’d do anything like this or be involved in anything to do with terrorism.
“He was at risk of extremists in Libya because he liked to drink and socialise and didn’t lead a strict religious life at all.
“He started going to church and had tattoos all over his body including one of a cross on his arm.
“He did get in trouble in England and could be aggressive but I can’t ever imagine him getting drawn into something as serious as this.”
Saadallah’s brother Aimen, who lived with him in Reading for a time, said: “I don’t know what he’s been arrested for, sorry.”
At 7pm on Saturday his pent-up rage allegedly led to him knifing 12 people in Reading’s Forbury Gardens.
Priti Patel today visited the scene of the stabbing attack as the city gathered for a one minute’s silence to remember the victims.
Last year he had been placed on MI5’s “long list” of around 40,000 suspects after expressing a desire to join IS in Syria.
But investigators ruled his wish was just “aspirational” and no formal MI5 probe was ever opened.
It was today reported he had lived in Manchester when he first arrived in the UK with former neighbours suggesting he had moved in the same circles as Salman Abedi – the man who carried out the Manchester bombing attack.
However, official sources denied any connection.
Saadallah’s wild moods were controlled by drugs in jail. He was not deported because human rights laws block returning criminals to “failed” states such as Libya, sources said.
And a cousin today claimed: “His mother is crying all the time, saying: ‘My son doesn’t like violence, I can’t believe he could do this.”
Saadallah spat at Judge Sophie Toms at Reading magistrates court after she sentenced him for previous offences in March 2019.
Other offences — none of which were terror-related — include possession of a bladed weapon and assaulting a police officer, which landed him an eight-month term.
Last October he was sentenced to 28 months for breaching a suspended jail term, racially aggravated assault, criminal damage and affray.
He threatened a Sainsbury’s guard with a broken bottle of wine when challenged for stealing it.
He had delusional and probably paranoid schizophrenia and was on strong medication which could be administered regularly in prison.
Less than three weeks ago he left HMP Bullingdon, Oxfordshire, after less than half of his sentence.
He was given tough licence conditions but lockdown-hit probation and social services struggled to monitor him.
Staff had put him in a crime-plagued council block in Basingstoke Road half a mile from the park.
Neighbours said he lived alone and peddled drugs. Kieran Vernon, 26, said Saadallah regularly sold him cannabis.
He added: “We’d meet four times a week in an alley near his flat. He seemed a normal guy.
“I only met him a few weeks ago, he told me he’d been in prison and was from Libya. He loved whisky too.”
And officials are today warning people to remain alert while out in public amid fears of attacks of people gathering outside due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Residents living near his top-floor flat said they had seen him looking unwell on Friday, resting his head against the rail of a stairwell.
Sources said Saadallah had been given high priority by the probation service because of his illness and violent past. A source said: “The motivation remains unclear. His associations in prison are one line of inquiry.
“He obviously had an interest in extremism dating to last year. He had delusional and probably paranoid schizophrenia and was on strong medication which could be administered regularly in prison. His issues mean any trigger could have been very quick.”
Police chiefs declared the attack a terrorist incident. They also stressed that mental health was a “major factor” in their inquiries.
‘Threat to blow up flats’
By Tom Wells
TRIPLE murder suspect Saadallah threatened to blow up his flat and left neighbours fearing for their safety, it was claimed last night.
They said the hoodie-wearing Libyan was noisy and aggressive and often carried a large bag.
Matthew Axford, 21, said Saadallah had threatened a huge explosion.
He told The Sun: “A while ago he threatened to blow up the flat and threw a TV out the window.
“He said he’d left the gas on on the oven. Cops arrived and evacuated the building.
“I don’t know why they let him back in. It’s scary.”
Pictures also emerged on social media of Saadallah appearing to light a joint.
Another shows him sticking two fingers up as he listens to music on headphones.
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