Minicab driver Muhiddin Mire guilty of Islamist attack on Leytonstone Tube passenger https://t.co/n8pvVZkMaH pic.twitter.com/XPvhGraKTU
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 8, 2016
Lyle Zimmerman, a musician, was toting a mandolin and electric guitar through a Tube station in east London when a man came up behind him, slit his throat and apparently shouted, “This is for Syria, my Muslim brothers, all your blood will be spilled,” according to the Guardian.
It happened so fast that, Zimmerman said, he did not know whether he had been punched or stabbed on that Saturday night in December 2015.
“I turned my head and caught a glimpse of a man and then I don’t remember anything until I was on the ground getting my head kicked in,” Zimmerman told the Guardian over the summer.
“I remember vividly being in a hospital with all these needles and tubes coming out of me,” he added. “I heard a doctor saying to the cops, ‘No, he doesn’t have life-threatening injuries, but he’s got potentially life-changing injuries.’ And I said, ‘Excuse me! No, no, not gonna change my life. I do not have life-changing injuries.’ They probably thought I was crazy, but they stopped saying it, and that’s the way I’ve thought of it ever since.”
The attacker, whose name has been spelled in news reports as both Muhiddin and Muhyadin Mire, was eventually convicted of attempted murder.
Then, earlier this week, the incident made the list of 78 “underreported” terrorist attacks from September 2014 to December 2016 that was released by the White House — but Zimmerman, an American, said it shouldn’t have been on it.
“For the White House, that’s not good enough. I felt like it was heavily covered and also not actually an act of terrorism,” Zimmerman told the Independent about the night of the attack.
“It was obvious to me that the event was ripe for sensationalization,” he added, “and that was going to help ISIS and help far-right extremists as well by making it this big, terrifying event.”
Authorities in London first investigated the brutal stabbing as a terrorist incident but did not determine that Mire, the attacker, had been motivated by religion, politics or ideology, according to the Guardian.
It did appear, however, that he suffered from severe mental health issues.
Life term for IS-inspired Tube attacker Muhiddin Mire https://t.co/bLZ8SXpVCm pic.twitter.com/7Rl0tAomWm
— BBC News England (@BBCEngland) August 1, 2016
Mire’s attorneys said he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and suffered from episodes of psychosis, according to the Independent.
“I would not class it as a terrorist incident now,” Cdr. Dean Haydon, who heads counterterrorism for Scotland Yard, told the Guardian at the time.
“While Mire has not been accused of any terrorist offenses, it would appear from comments he made at the time of the attack and the content he had downloaded on his phone that he may have been inspired by extremist ideology,” he added. “Part of their propaganda is specifically targeted in relation to the vulnerable. We’re not just talking about mental health here, we’re talking about vulnerable individuals within the community. As a result of what I would call inspiration, as a result of that propaganda, we are seeing more and more lone actors. Spontaneous volatile extremists is another term.”
Zimmerman said earlier this week that he agreed with the decision not to proceed with terrorism charges against Mire.
“I was very clear in my mind within a day or so of the attack that it was just a mental health tragedy,” Zimmerman told the Independent. “This guy had a really profound history of mental illness, and his family had been trying to get him help. I thought it was entirely appropriate that he wasn’t charged with terrorism crimes.”
Indeed, Zimmerman is not the only one who took issue with incidents that appeared on the White House terror list.
Parents of British backpackers Mia Ayliffe-Chung and Tom Jackson, who were fatally stabbed over the summer in Queensland, Australia, also were furious when they found their children’s murders on it.
As The Washington Post’s Avi Selk reported, the two travelers had barely known each other — or their accused killer — when they intersected in a remote Australian hostel where backpackers stopped to raise funds for their travels.
On Aug. 23, Smail Ayad reportedly pulled a kitchen knife and attacked them, yelling “Allahu akbar,” according to the Guardian.
“He roused Ayliffe-Chung from her bed and hauled her onto a balcony,” the Guardian reported. She broke away, wounded, and scrambled through the building, according to the newspaper. Witnesses heard Ayad yelling incoherently as he chased her — “Allahu akbar” among other exclamations — then saw him dive head first from a stairwell, killing a dog and finally cornering his victim in a bathroom.
Jackson tried to help her. They were both stabbed many times. She would die in the hostel, and he a few days later in a hospital.
“My daughter’s death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people,” Rosie Ayliffe, Ayliffe-Chung’s mother, wrote in an open letter to President Trump, opposing the decision to label the deaths as terrorism.
Her words were joined by the parents of the attack’s second victim, Jackson, who expressed their disbelief in an email to the White House and elsewhere.
“I’m pretty sure he and his advisers know full well — or could very easily verify — that Tom and Mia died not as the result of an act of terror but rather through the actions of a disturbed individual,” Les Jackson wrote online.
“Of course, that doesn’t suit his agenda.”
The families called the claims nonsense.
“The fact anyone would want to make something political out of Tom dying is just beyond me,” Jackson told The Washington Post. “We’re still struggling to come to terms with it and probably never will. This has just brought the whole experience of last summer crashing about us.”
Zimmerman, who was attacked in London in 2015, said he also disagrees with Trump’s executive order barring travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. Mire told the Independent that the White House terror list tried to “appeal to the lowest common denominator” of Trump’s support base, and he believes it is “counterproductive to U.S. safety” because it alienates allies.
While talking last year about his attack, Zimmerman told the Guardian that he had taken steps to make sure that his story did not add to the political noise.
“I don’t see Mr. Mire as emblematic of immigration or religion; I just think he’s a really unwell guy,” he told the newspaper. “And I knew I was going to be okay. But obviously I also knew it was going to be a sensationalized story. It would have been like giving a million dollars to Trump’s campaign, and a gift to ISIS. I didn’t want that, so I asked the police, ‘How long can you protect my anonymity?’ “
Zimmerman got a privacy order and moved on, according to the Guardian.
“It happened,” he said, “but it doesn’t have much to do with who I am.”
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