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Philadelphia native among 3 killed in suspected U.K. terror attack

A police forensic officer works behind a police cordon near Forbury Gardens, where stabbings took place in Reading, England, June 21, 2020. Tim Ireland/Xinhua/Getty

An American man from Philadelphia has been identified as one of three people killed in what British police are calling a suspected terrorist attack over the weekend. A 25-year-old man who lived in the area has been arrested under the U.K. Terrorism Act. He is suspected of acting alone in the stabbing attack, which took place in a park in the town of Reading, about 40 miles west of London.

The motive in the attack remained unclear on Monday, but acquaintances and neighbors of the suspect have told BBC News he suffered from mental health issues. According to the BBC, he came to the attention of U.K. law enforcement in 2019 after making enquires about traveling abroad for possible terrorism-related purposes. The threat was not deemed credible and no investigation was launched.

Police said there was no indication the suspect had links to organized terror groups and there was nothing to suggest an ongoing threat to the public after the attack. The national terror alert level was not raised.

On Sunday, family members in Pennsylvania confirmed to CBS Philly Eyewitness News that one of the people killed in the knife attack was Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a Philadelphia native who had lived in Britain for 15 years. 

The victim's father, Robert Ritchie, told CBS Philly that his family "is heartbroken they have lost their brilliant and loving son. This was senseless."

U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson condemned the attack in a tweet and offered American assistance to British authorities investigating the crime.

"I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed. To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected," Johnson said.

One of the other two victims was identified as British school teacher James Furlong, 36. The third victim had not been identified as of Monday morning.

Parents Gary and Janet described Furlong son as "beautiful, intelligent, honest and fun" and said they were "thankful for the memories he gave us all," according to the BBC.

Police officers in forensic suits walk along the park where the scene of multiple stabbings took place, in Reading
Police officers in forensic suits walk in the park where a suspected terrorist stabbing attack left three people dead, in Reading, England, June 21, 2020. PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

The attack occurred in broad daylight on Saturday. Witnesses said the suspect shouted incoherently before attacking a group of people enjoying fine weather in the park, seemingly at random.

Under the Terrorism Act, British police can hold the suspect for up to 14 days without charging him with a crime, pending an investigation. That period can be extended under judicial request. The suspect, identified by British media as Libyan national Khairi Saadallah, had reportedly faced previous criminal charges in Reading for assault.

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