May 23, 2013

Two more suspects arrested in London terror attack

Islamic hardliners say the man who appeared with bloody hands in a video following the attack on a British soldier is a convert from Christianity.

The Associated Press

LONDON — Two Muslim hardliners say the man seen wielding a bloody butcher's knife after the killing of a British soldier is a Muslim convert who took part in demonstrations with the banned radical group al-Muhajiroun.

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Lee Rigby, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was identified as the soldier who was attacked and killed by two men in the Woolwich area of London on Wednesday.

The Associated Press / British Ministry of Defence

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This man was filmed on the street, claiming responsibility after the attack in London on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, British police on Thursday evening announced the arrests of two more suspects in the case. Police said a man and a woman, both aged 29, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.

Former al-Muhajiroun head Anjem Choudary told The Associated Press that the man in startling video footage that emerged after the killing as Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam around 2003 and took part in several of the group's demonstrations in London.

The BBC broadcast footage from 2007 showing Adebolajo standing near Choudary at a rally.

Omar Bakri Muhammad — who now lives in Lebanon but had been a radical Muslim preacher in London — also said he recognized the man seen on television as Adebolajo and said he attended his London lectures in the early 2000s. Police have not named Adebolajo.

Bakri said he remembers Adebolajo as a "shy person" who was keen to learn about Islam and asked interesting questions.

"He used to listen more than he spoke," Bakri said. "I was very surprised to learn that he is the suspect in the attack."

A second person hospitalized following the attack has not yet been identified.

The two men suspected of butchering the British soldier had been part of previous investigations by security services, a British official said Thursday, as investigators searched several locations and tried to determine whether the men were part of a wider plot to instill terror on the streets of London.

The men, suspected of hacking the off-duty soldier while horrified bystanders watched, boasted of their exploits and warned of more violence in images recorded on witnesses' mobile phones. Holding bloody knives and a meat cleaver, they waited for the arrival of police, who shot them in the legs, according to a passerby who tried to save the dying soldier.

A British government official said one of two men allegedly linked to the death of the soldier tried to go to Somalia to train or fight with the terror group al-Shabab. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the police investigation, would not tell the AP if the suspect had been arrested or whether he had made any other trips to the country.

Citing unnamed sources with "knowledge of British jihadis," the BBC's "Newsnight" program reported Wednesday that one of the suspects in the attack was arrested last year on his way to joining al-Shabab.

Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that Britain would not be cowed by the horrific violence, and that it would reject "the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds." In Washington, President Barack Obama said the United States "stands resolute with the United Kingdom" in the fight against violent extremism.

There were few signs of alarm in the British capital, which has been hit by terrorist attacks during a long confrontation with the Irish Republican Army and more recently by al-Qaida-inspired attacks.

"It's hateful, it's horrific and upsetting. But it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference," Christian White, 43, said at King's Cross station, close to the site of a subway bomb in July 2005. "Londoners are used to living in a city where life is complicated."

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