Man who allegedly hacked soldier to death in London identified as Muslim convert
LONDON — A man seen with bloody hands wielding a butcher knife after the gruesome killing of a British soldier on the streets of London was described as a convert to Islam who took part in demonstrations with a banned radical group, two Muslim hard-liners said on Thursday.
Police raided houses in connection with the brazen slaying of the off-duty soldier, identified as Lee Rigby, of the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who served in Afghanistan. In addition to two suspects who were hospitalized after being shot by police, authorities said they arrested a man and a woman, both 29, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that his nation would not succumb to fear and promised a vigorous investigation into what was this city's first successfully executed terrorist attack since the coordinated transit system bombings in 2005.
Amid reports that at least one of the suspects sought to travel to Somalia to support an al-Qaida affiliate, Cameron said there would be reviews of British security services' management of any information that had been received about either man in recent years. But he put the blame for the attack square on the “sickening individuals” who carried it out.
“The people who did this were trying to divide us,” Cameron said. “They should know that something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.”
The two men suspected of killing the 25-year-old Rigby had been part of previous investigations by security services, a British official said, as investigators searched several locations and tried to determine whether the men were part of a wider terrorist plot.
There was no clear indication on when or where the suspects may have been radicalized.
Rigby, the father of a 2-year-old boy, was slain on Wednesday afternoon outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in the Woolwich area of south London while horrified bystanders watched, cellphone cameras in hand.
The Times of London reported that the alleged assailants are British citizens of Nigerian background who converted to a radical form of Islam. Britain's Press Association said that although the men appeared to have links to Nigeria, they were not thought to have ties to terror groups based in that country.
Police would not say whether it appeared Rigby had been targeted specifically because of his military service. Although he was not in uniform, he was said by witnesses to be wearing a T-shirt for a veterans charity.
Authorities have not identified the two wounded suspects. Officials in Britain usually wait to name suspects until charges have been filed.
But Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, told The Associated Press that the man depicted in startling videos that emerged after Rigby's death was named Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam about 2003 and took part in several demonstrations in London.
The BBC broadcast video from 2007 showing Adebolajo standing near Choudary at a rally.
Omar Bakri Muhammad, who lives in Lebanon but had been a radical Muslim preacher in London, said he recognized the man seen on TV as Adebolajo and said he attended his London lectures in the early 2000s.