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David Amess: UK police charge man with politician's murder

Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old man of Somali heritage, was charged with the killing. Prosecutors say he had links to the Islamic State group
The killing of 69-year-old David Amess has prompted calls for better protection of lawmakers.
The killing of 69-year-old David Amess has prompted calls for better protection of lawmakers (AFP)

British police on Thursday charged a 25-year-old Londoner of Somali heritage with the murder of a politician in a church, in a case that has raised fears about the safety of elected politicians.

Ali Harbi Ali, the son of a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia, had described himself as affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) group and had planned for years to kill a member of parliament, prosecutor James Cable told Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Ali had visited the Houses of Parliament, an MP's home and another constituency surgery to perform reconnaissance for a potential attack, the prosecutor said.

David Amess: UK police investigating if MP killed over Qatar links
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In addition to being charged with murder, UK police said in a statement that Ali was also being charged with preparing acts of terrorism.

Appearing briefly in court, Ali spoke only to confirm his name, age and address. He was remanded in custody and will appear on Friday at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court of England and Wales.

"He described himself as being affiliated with Islamic State," Cable told the court.

Still, Matt Jukes, the Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner for specialist operations, cautioned against speculation about Ali's motivations.

"It is vitally important that everyone exercises restraint when commenting on it publicly, to ensure future court proceedings are not prejudiced in any way," Jukes said.

He said no other arrests had been made and police were not looking for any other people in connection with the murder.

Earlier, Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said in a statement the murder "has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations".

'Substantial threat' to lawmakers

The Times reported this week that police had been investigating whether 69-year-old David Amess, a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, was murdered because of his links to Qatar.

He had served as the head of the all-party parliamentary group for Qatar, and most recently visited the Gulf state on 9 and 10 October, when he met Qatar's emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The killing of the British politician has prompted calls for better protection of lawmakers.

Amess was repeatedly knifed last week in the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, northeast of London, where he had been meeting constituents. Paramedics tried to save him on the floor of the church, but in vain.

On Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the terrorism threat level to lawmakers was now deemed substantial, which means an attack was considered likely.

Amess, married with five children, was first elected to parliament to represent the town of Basildon in 1983, and then nearby Southend West in 1997.

The attack on Amess comes five years after the murder of Jo Cox, a member of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party.

Cox, who fought for the rights of migrants and celebrated the polycultural nature of her constituency, was murdered in the lead-up to the Brexit referendum as she prepared to hold a constituency surgery on 16 June 2016. Witnesses reported the attacker cried "Britain First" as he launched his attack.