As information continues to be disclosed about the heinous public murder of a British so
ldier in London on Wednesday, a British security official admitted that the two men who hacked the victim to death were known to intelligence services. The official added that they weren’t deemed enough of a threat to arrest or to have placed under surveillance.
According to published reports, the gruesome attack took place in southeast London’s Woolrich area, only yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks. The attackers were armed with an assortment of knives and reports indicate that the soldier’s head had been decapitated. Following the brutal act, police took twenty minutes to arrive on the scene and ultimately shot and wounded the two suspects, described by eyewitnesses as two black men in their mid-20s.
British Prime Minister David Cameron intimated that the murder strongly suggested that it was an act of terrorism but also appealed to all Britons; emphasizing that the attack wasn’t only on a single soldier.
“This was not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country,” Cameron told reporters.
In an interview with ABC News, Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the group Al Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist Organization said that one of the attackers was Michael Adebolajo, a British Christian who converted to Islam in 2003 and changed his name to Mujahid, meaning one who wages jihad.
ABC News reported that Adebolajo,apparently had no intention of getting away; having asked passersby to call the police and invited them to interview him on their camera phones. He spoke holding two bloody knives and his hands covered with blood; using rhetoric similar to that expressed in martyrdom videos.
“We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone, your people will never be safe,” Abedolajo said calmly, according to ITV News, which first obtained the video. “Tell them to bring our troops back so we — so you — can all live in peace.”
Choudary said Adebolajo was never a member of Al Muhajiroun but he knew him because he attended the group’s rallies from about 2005 to 2011.
After 2011, Choudary said, Adebolajo stopped attending rallies. Choudary said he has no idea what Adebolajo has been doing since, and he said that Adebolajo never suggested any antipathy to British soldiers or any willingness to commit violence.
“He was a very peaceful man,” Choudary said. “Never saw any kind of violence streak in him. Very quiet, timid man, in fact.”
Adebolajo is under arrest in the hospital, recovering from bullet wounds he suffered when police shot him after he and his accomplice charged them.
British intelligence will likely face questions about whether they should have been able to stop the assault as police have now widened their investigation, raiding a suspect’s father’s home and combing, inch-by-inch, the area around the attack that raised fears of terrorism’s return to London, according to ABC News.
A few hundred members of the English Defense League, a right-wing party, poured into Woolwich Wednesday night, wearing masks and throwing rocks at police. And police reported two separate attacks on Muslim centers in southern and eastern England.
According to Scotland Yard, an additional 1,200 cops are patrolling London today, focusing on mosques and religious centers, as well as outside army barracks.
Police in Essex, east of London, arrested a 43-year-old who was holding a knife outside of a Muslim prayer center Wednesday night. They charged him with attempted arson as well as suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, Essex police told ABC News.
And in Gillingham, Kent, which is south of London, another man was arrested Wednesday night outside a mosque on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage, Kent police told ABC News.
British Muslim organizations were quick to condemn the attack.
“We must come together, isolate those who believe that extremism and violence are acceptable, and work to ensure that they meet the full force of the law,” Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, said in a statement. “We as the Muslim community will work against anyone who promotes such hatred.”