LONDON, UK — Britain continued to sort through the pieces Friday of the brutal public murder of a soldier identified yesterday as Drummer Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old married father of one.
In an emotional news conference on Friday, his wife Rebecca Rigby said she expected her husband to be safe in Britain. "You don't expect it to happen when he's in the UK," she said.
Media reports have identified the suspects as Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, of London. Two days after the pair were filmed standing over Rigby's body with knives and bloodied hands, it has emerged that both men were on the radar of police and Britain's intelligence agency MI5 years before the attack.
Adebolajo — who says "you people will never be safe" in a video taken by passersby immediately after the murder — was arrested after violent protests in 2007. He was a street preacher often seen on the streets in the southeast London neighborhood where he also had a bookstall selling Islamist literature. He reportedly attempted to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab there, but was stopped.
Prime Minister David Cameron called for an investigation into why neither man was identified as high risk, The Telegraph reported. The pair were shot by police after charging at officers, as seen in newly-released video. They remain in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
After raiding six different places tied to the suspects yesterday, police arrested a man and woman on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
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Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical Islamist leader who has been banned from the UK, says one of the suspects attended his meetings in London. In an interview with The Independent, Mohammed appeared to claim credit for radicalizing the formerly-Christian Adebolajo, who converted.
“He asked questions about religion, he was curious. He had first started coming when there was a lot of anger about the Iraq war and the war on terror," Mohammed said. "Whether I influenced him or not, I do not know. But he was a quiet boy, so something must have happened.”
Mohammed, who now lives in Lebanon, told The Independent: “I saw the film and we could see that he [the suspect] was being very courageous. Under Islam this can be justified, he was not targeting civilians, he was taking on a military man in an operation. To people around here [in the Middle East] he is a hero for what he has done.”
Local media has also published a photograph of suspect Adebolajo standing with the controversial Islamist political organizer Anjem Choudary. Last night on the BBC program Newsnight, Choudary said the suspect had come to some events of his now-banned radical Islamist organization Al Muhajiroun, and that he had seen Adebolajo as recently as two or three years ago.
When pressed by the moderator, Choudary said he was "shocked" by the murder, but refused to condemn Adebolajo's actions.
"When I saw what took place I was shocked... but what he said in the clip, I think not many Muslims can disagree with," Choudary said.
Meanwhile, the UK has already seen an uptick in Islamophobic incidents, including vandalism at mosques and Muslims being abused on the streets. According to The Telegraph, the Tell Mama hotline which records reports of such incidents heard of 38 cases on Wednesday night alone, with more being reported Thursday.
A prominent Muslim in the city of Leicester anonymously told Religion News Service that his community was "extremely worried" about right-wing retaliation.
"This could fuel the anger of organizations like the English Defence League and the British National Party," he said. "The EDL last night had over 250 of its supporters wearing white balaclavas near the scene of the murder. They were shouting anti-Islamic slogans."
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