A police officer takes flowers from a woman
near the scene of the killing.
London attacker British, of Nigerian origin
London, May 23, 2013
British authorities have established that one and possibly both of the men who hacked a soldier to death on a London street was born in Britain of Nigerian descent, a source with knowledge of the investigation said on Thursday.
Local media named the man who was definitely born in the country as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo and said police raided the home of his Nigerian family in a village near the eastern English city of Lincoln. Both men appeared to have converted to Islam from Christian immigrant backgrounds, British media said.
Both suspects in the attack, conducted in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon, are in custody after being shot by police.
As security experts highlighted the risk to Western cities of "lone wolf" attacks by local people radicalised over the Internet, Prime Minister David Cameron held an emergency meeting of his intelligence chiefs to assess the response to what he called a "terrorist" attack, the first deadly strike in mainland Britain since local Islamists killed dozens in London in 2005.
"We will never give in to terror or terrorism in any of its forms," Cameron said outside his Downing Street office. "This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act."
The two men used a car to run down the still formally unidentified soldier near Woolwich Barracks in southeast London on Wednesday afternoon and attempted to behead him with a meat cleaver and knives, witnesses said, before telling bystanders they acted in revenge for British wars in Muslim countries.
A dramatic clip filmed by an onlooker showed one of the men, in his 20s and casually dressed, his hands covered in blood and speaking in a local accent apologising for taking his action in front of women but justifying it on religious grounds.
"We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day," he said. "This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
The attack, just a month after the bomb attacks on the Boston Marathon, revived fears of "lone wolves". These may have had no direct contact with Al Qaeda but are inspired by radical preachers and by Islamist militant Web sites, some of which urge people to attack Western targets with whatever means they have.
Chilling images of the blood-soaked suspect - who urged Britons to overthrow their government or risk having their children face a fate similar to a dead soldier lying just yards away - were splashed across the front pages of newspapers.
"I apologise that women had to witness that, but in our lands our women have to see the same thing. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don't care about you," the man said in the video before crossing the street and speaking casually to the other attacker.
The grisly attack took place on the edge of London's sprawling Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a south London working class district which has long-standing historic links to the military.
The victim was wearing a T-shirt saying "Help for Heroes", the name of a charity formed to help wounded British veterans. Britain has had troops deployed in Afghanistan since 2001 and had troops in Iraq from 2003-2009.
Before he was stabbed to death, the victim was knocked over by a blue car which then rammed into a lamp-post. The attackers pounced on him in broad daylight in a busy residential street.
Witnesses said they shouted "Allahu akbar" while stabbing the victim and trying to behead him. A handgun was found at the scene.
Some onlookers rushed to help the victim and one woman tried to engage one of the attackers in conversation to calm him.
"He had what looked like butcher's tools - a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives. He said: 'Move off the body,'" Ingrid Loyau-Kennett was quoted by local media as saying.
"He said: 'I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan.'" - Reuters