LONDON — The death toll from the London Bridge terrorist attacks rose to eight Wednesday after police found the body of a missing French national in the River Thames.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said he had been informed of the new death toll. British police have not publicly identified the eighth victim, but they said the next of kin of missing French citizen Xavier Thomas has been informed about the body found.
The announcement came amid more raids and arrests following the Saturday night rampage — even as officials faced questions about how intelligence services apparently lost track of at least two suspects before the attack.
The latest terrorist bloodshed in London also has now become a major factor in Thursday’s election that has suddenly become a tighter contest for Prime Minister Theresa May.
With less than 24 hours before polls opened, May attempted to seize back the initiative by suggesting she would change laws to fight the terrorist threat facing Britain.
“If human rights laws get in the way of doing these things, we will change those laws to make sure we can do them,” May told the Sun newspaper. The paper also endorsed May’s Conservative Party Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, a 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offenses following a raid in Ilford in east London, which has emerged as the apparent hub for the attack plot.
All three attackers were killed by police officers after mowing down pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in adjacent Borough Market, an area bustling with bars and restaurants. The attackers have been identified as two British citizens, Khuram Butt, 27, and Rachid Redouane, 30, and 22-year-old Moroccan-Italian Youssef Zaghba.
British police and security agencies are facing growing questions over how two of the attackers — Zaghba and Butt — slipped through the net.
It now appears that at least two of the three assailants were known to British intelligence services, putting May and top law enforcement officials under pressure to explain what — if anything — could have been done to stop the attack in London that also left dozens injured.
In Italy, a senior police official told The Washington Post that Zaghba was born in Fez, Morocco, in January 1995. The son of a Moroccan father and Italian mother, he lived for a time in Italy and had been suspected of associating with a terrorist organization, the official said.
In an interview with Italy’s Radio 24, Giuseppe Amato, chief prosecutor in Bologna, said Zaghba, an Italian national, had been flagged in March 2016 at the Bologna airport en route to Turkey because he was traveling on a one-way ticket with only a backpack as luggage.
When asked by authorities about his intentions, Amato said, Zaghba initially replied that he was leaving to become “a terrorist.” The suspect quickly corrected himself, but nevertheless was later brought up on terrorism-related charges.
Although an initial investigation found that his seized phone contained Islamic State propaganda, an Italian court later ruled that there was insufficient evidence, dropping charges and ordering the device returned.
“Thus its contents could not be thoroughly examined,” Amato said.
Italy’s anti-terrorism police continued to monitor Zaghba for 18 months. “But the evidence wasn’t there that he was a terrorist,” Amato said. “He was [just] a suspect because of his behavior.”
Amato noted, however, that Zaghba had been “flagged to London [authorities] as a potential suspect.”
A second Italian official familiar with the investigation said there had been “an absolute interchange of investigative information with British authorities” in Zaghba’s case.
In a statement Tuesday, British authorities said Zaghba was “not a police or MI5 subject of interest,” referring to the British intelligence service.
The two main candidates for prime minister — the incumbent, May, and the challenger, Jeremy Corbyn — traded barbs Tuesday over how security services can better protect the public after three mass-casualty attacks in Britain in as many months.
May said that authorities will need greater powers to crack down on extremism and that Corbyn had blocked such efforts. Corbyn, the far-left leader of the Labour Party, accused May of starving police and other security services of personnel and funds.
Washington Post writers Anthony Faiola and Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.