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The murder of a British lawmaker is a suspected act of terrorism

A police officer guards the scene outside a church where a politician was stabbed.
Reuters/Tony O'Brien
Police responding to the scene.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

UK counterterrorism police are questioning a 25-year-old man following the murder of David Amess, a Conservative party member of the UK parliament, on Oct. 15. The suspected killer, Ali Harbi Ali, is a British national of Somali origin, and is thought to have links to Islamic extremism. His father, Harbi Ali Kullane, is a former adviser to Somalia’s prime minister.

The deadly attack took place in Leigh-on-Sea, a town 40 miles east of London.

Amess, 69, became a lawmaker in 1983 and had represented the constituency of Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997. He was one of the longest-serving politicians in the House of Commons, and is survived by a wife and five children.

Amess was killed during an open meeting

Amess was scheduled to meet with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church, according to his website. UK politicians typically aren’t accompanied by heavy security when they attend such public events in the regions they represent. The British home secretary Priti Patel is considering additional security measures.

“I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess,” Lindsey Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, said in a statement, adding that the MP had “built a reputation for kindness and generosity” among Parliament members and staff.

Amess supported the 2016 Brexit referendum to leave the European Union, and was a devout Catholic who opposed measures to expand abortion access, as well as legalize same-sex marriage. He was passionate about animal welfare, and was a strong proponent of legislation to eliminate fuel poverty among households that cannot afford to keep their homes heated.

Officials from across the political spectrum expressed their condolences following news of Amess’s death. Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party, called the news “horrific and deeply shocking,” and wrote he was thinking of Amess’s family and staff. In a video statement, prime minister Boris Johnson called him one of the “kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.”

The killing occurred five years after murder of Jo Cox

The fatal stabbing of Amess occurs just over five years after the murder of another member of parliament, Jo Cox, in her Yorkshire constituency. The Labour politician was shot and stabbed on June 16, 2016 by Thomas Mair, who sympathized with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Cox had been an active campaigner for Britain to stay in the EU, and advocated for the resettlement of Syrian refugees within the UK.

Cox’s husband, Brendan, posted that there was no excuse or justification for Amess’s killing.

This piece has been updated.

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