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History > 2013 > UK > Terrorism (I)



Woolwich attack:

'these poor idiots

have nothing to do with Islam'

If there is a message from the reaction to Rigby's death
it is that Muslims are doing all they can
to counter killers' divisive intent


Friday 24 May 2013
19.48 BST
The Guardian
Peter Walker and Matthew Taylor
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 19.48 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.
A version appeared on p5 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Saturday 25 May 2013.
It was last modified at 00.02 BST on Saturday 25 May 2013.


Two days after Lee Rigby's horrific killing, the scene was set for a small but significant piece of community rebuilding: a delegation from the Muslim Council of Britain was to add its own tribute to the mass of flowers at the scene of his death. Then, at brisk walk in the pouring rain, arrived the last person some might wish to see at such a time: Nick Griffin.

The BNP leader, flanked by a burly aide and an even burlier bodyguard, insisted he was there purely as a politician – Rigby's family comes from his north-west England European Parliament constituency – and to "pay my personal respects". But no sooner were the cameras rolling than Griffin launched into his well-worn patter about Britain's supposedly radicalised Muslim population and how its was ignored by "the liberal elite, politicians and mass media".

Fortunately, the MCB were delayed, the group's deputy general secretary, Shuja Shafi, laying his own flowers after Griffin had gone. Shafi was at pains to say, he was there purely to mourn "the loss of a bright young man, a father, a husband and a brother".

It was a message reflected in other flowers left at the busy junction by Zahida Ahmad, a Muslim who has lived in Woolwich for 45 years. "Lee Rigby, we are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of an innocent life," read her card. "Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family."

If there is a wider message from the reaction in south-east London and more widely around Britain since Rigby's death it is that Muslim groups are doing all they can to counter the divisive intent of the killers.

Perhaps the biggest single expression of solidarity came at the East London mosque, in Tower Hamlets, as leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths joined around 6,000 Muslims for Friday prayers.

The group included the Bishop of Stepney, Adrian Newman, and Leon Silver from the East London central synagogue. Speaking before prayers started they said they had come to condemn the Woolwich attacks and show that the various faith communities were standing shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim neighbours.

"Here in Tower Hamlets we do support each other in our different faiths," said Rev Alan Green, chair of the Tower Hamlets interfaith forum. "If there are attempts to demonise parts of our community – particularly the Muslim community – we will stand together. We will not leave our Muslim brothers and sisters to attempt to defend themselves."

Nonetheless, as well as sadness over the events in Woolwich there was fear among Muslim worshippers over what it may mean for them. "My sisters, my daughter – even my wife are now scared to go out because they fear what people may do after this," said Mizan Abdulrof. "Everyone is shocked and distraught about the horrendous act that was carried out. These idiots, these poor idiots, who carried out this barbaric act did so for their own self for nothing else … they have nothing whatever to do with Islam. Our hearts go out to that man and his poor family."

The latest figures for attacks against Muslims showed that these fears are not unfounded. The Tell Mama hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents recorded 148 incidents since the Woolwich attacks took place, including eight attacks on mosques.

Tell Mama co-ordinator Fiyaz Mughal said the service usually recorded three or four incidents on an average day, but the spike after Wednesday's killing showed no sign of slowing down.

To add to the growing tensions, far right groups such as the English Defence League and BNP are still trying to whip up division between communities.

The EDL, whose balaclava-clad supporters fought battles with the police in Woolwich hours after the killing, is due to hold a demonstration in Newcastle on Saturday and has called another protest outside Downing Street on Monday. Meanwhile the British National party has called a separate demonstration in Woolwich for 1 June.

Nick Lowles from anti-extremism organisation Hope not Hate said: "There are people who are deliberately trying to wind the situation up and incite a violent response against Muslims. We need people to stay calm but also we need the mainstream majority to speak out against extremism. Britain is better than the extremists."

Back at the East London mosque, sheikh Abdul Qayum condemned "without qualification the horrendous crime committed in Woolwich".

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. The actions of the perpetrators are totally against the religion of Islam and the example of the prophet Muhammad. Today we reaffirm this and stand with those of all faiths and none to oppose this terrible act."

At the closest major mosque to the attack, the Greenwich Islamic Centre, the mood ahead of Friday prayers were similar, albeit tinged with an air of weary resignation at being forced to defend their faith.

"Islam makes it very clear that if you murder one person you murder all of humanity," said one young mosque-goer, a Birmingham-born Christian convert who gave his name only as Mohammed. "But this is automatically a 'Muslim crime'. When Stuart Hazell killed Tia Sharp, did anyone mention he was brought up a Christian? No."

Mohammed said he felt particularly keenly about current events given that the two suspected killers are themselves converts to Islam: "But they're nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with the mosque. I've never seen either of them here. And yet we're going to have to explain ourselves to journalists all day."

    Woolwich attack: 'these poor idiots have nothing to do with Islam', G, 24.5.2013,






Islamists, gangs, the EDL

- all target alienated young men

Tighter security won't save us from more Woolwich-style attacks, but helping to protect those most at risk might


Friday 24 May 2013
18.32 BST
The Guardian
David Lammy
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 18.32 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.
A version appeared on p4 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Saturday 25 May 2013.
It was last modified at 00.02 BST on Saturday 25 May 2013.


Almost eight years ago, I lost one of my dearest school friends in the 7/7 terrorist attack on London's transport network. James Adams and 25 others were murdered by Abdullah Shaheed Jamal on a train travelling between Russell Square and King's Cross. Jamal did not look like Osama bin Laden, Kaled Sheikh Mohammed or Mohamed Atta. In fact, he looked like me: black Caribbean, raised and schooled in Britain. Michael Adebolajo, one of the two people alleged to have killed Lee Rigby in Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon, has a similar profile to Jamal. Adebolajo also grew up and went to school in Britain. From the videos that have emerged, this was a man that looked and sounded like many of us. But by young adulthood, he had converted to Islam and had become radicalised enough to murder a complete stranger.

All of us want to know what security measures can be put in place to prevent this happening again but this alone will not be enough. No draconian measures to "toughen up" our borders can thwart the murderous ambition of a fellow citizen. Neither does any state have the resources to monitor every convert utterly convinced of their own righteousness. Similarly, the suggestion that the murder was a direct consequence of British foreign policy is superficially compelling – some even tried to suggest to me that my vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq contributed to James' death – but now that British troops have left Basra and are due to leave the dusty plains of Helmand next year, who truly believes this will spell the end of attacks like these? And even if they could, what sovereign nation can possibly have its foreign affairs dictated to by a violent minority?

We need to start by looking closer to home. There is no escaping the fact that terrorist attacks have almost exclusively been led and executed by young men. Males isolated from the rest of society, fixated by a binary world view where there is only faith and infidelity. But these profoundly alienated young men are not only to be found in Britain's Muslim communities – vulnerable males looking to fill a vacuum in a life absent of camaraderie and purpose are common to all ethnicities. Likewise, it is not uncommon for fringe groups of all ideological persuasions to systematically target these men by manipulating their sense of hopelessness and lack of belonging.

In one community, the English Defence League has radicalised the anger of disillusioned young white men and channelled it towards immigrant communities they believe are destroying their way of life. In another, a culture that idolises guns, knives and nihilism has drawn predominantly young black men into the world of street gangs. Boys from the age of 10 are taught to abandon all others apart from the gangs they belong to and to fight for turf with their rivals. Here, the very notion of masculinity has been bastardised to the extent that in their code, power and respect can only be achieved through intimidation and fear.

At its most extreme is the root of the horrific scenes in Woolwich on Wednesday. Radical Islamism suffocates conventional Islamic beliefs based on love and mutual respect with a diet of anger, hate and intolerance. Young men, perhaps already convinced of being outcasts, are intoxicated by teachings that not only entrench this difference further but demands that they despise the society they leave behind. Only through this prism is it possible to understand the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan as an attack on oneself and subsequently seek revenge by the proxy of an inconspicuous soldier in a London suburb.

This distortion is so dangerous because it masquerades as an all-consuming faith. Whereas membership of the EDL or an inner-city gang can foster a type of lifestyle or, at worst, a livelihood, radical Islamism imposes a warped moral code and a polluted understanding of their purpose on earth. The attacks of 7/7 and the gruesome events in Woolwich were the products of marrying young men already drowning in their own grievances with a moral code that provides simple justifications for employing the worst excesses of human capacity.

This is no attempt to provide an alibi for the killers of Lee Rigby: no circumstance or character trait can possibly absolve personal responsibility in the case of this deliberate, gruesome murder. Neither can this possibly be caused by the recession or government cuts – there has always been a reservoir of young men that society forgets in times of both boom and bust.

But it is not unreasonable to ask why British males of a certain age and demographic but from all backgrounds almost exclusively provide the talent pool for our legions of racists, football hooligans, rioters, gang members and terrorists.

We may never be able to stop the EDL from trying to exploit the anger of young white, unemployed men. We may never be able to stop grime artists glorifying violence or gang leaders looking for impressionable black youths to do their bidding. Nor may we ever be able to stop clerics from the other side of the world inciting hatred in sermons uploaded to YouTube. But we aren't powerless. There is much more we can do to build the resilience of these young men long before they become candidates for radicalisation. We can help provide purpose to the purposeless so they cannot be manipulated. We can communicate a message of aspiration and opportunity that can cut through lives littered with grievances.

Most of all, our response should be informed by what weakens this fringe ideology the most. If the aftermath of Lee Rigby's horrific murder is that we return to a debate that isolates Britain's Muslim communities we will merely empower the racists that only wish to stoke tension. Instead, we have to empower the imams and mosques that utterly reject these heinous crimes without question. We have to strengthen the families and communities that are best placed to make a difference, not just limit our ambition to tap more phones or track more emails. We need to turn our attention to the generation of alienated and brutalised young men who remain vulnerable to the poisonous ideology of violent extremism. If we make no attempt to reach them, then we will only empower the zealots that groomed the murderers of Lee Rigby and James Adams.

    Islamists, gangs, the EDL - all target alienated young men, G, 24.5.2013,






Woolwich killing:

universities crack down

on the preachers of hate

Universities asked to draw up guidelines on handling preachers with track record of inciting hatred
in aftermath of attack


Friday 24 May 2013
21.07 BST
Patrick Wintour, Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins
The Guardian
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 21.07 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.
A version appeared on p1 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Saturday 25 May 2013.
It was last modified at 01.45 BST on Saturday 25 May 2013.


A fresh drive to prevent radicalisation of impressionable students on campus is being launched in which universities will be asked to draw up guidelines on how to handle preachers who have a track record of inciting hatred, at the end of a dramatic week that saw a soldier murdered in Woolwich in the first terror-related incident on mainland Britain since the 7 July 2005 bombings.

Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, launched a new campaign in an attempt to show students, unions and academics what they can do to constrain controversial preachers.

Ministers are reluctant to reach for a barrage of new legislation in the wake of the terrorist murder of a soldier outside Woolwich barracks, but recognise they need to do more to revive Labour's stalled Prevent strategy, which was introduced by the previous government in an attempt to forestall young people becoming involved with extremist groups.

One of the suspects in Wednesday's murder of Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo, converted to Islam in 2003 and attended events of the now banned al-Muhajiroun group. But it is not clear that there was any university link.

The limited government response emerged on the day that the family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby fought back tears at an emotionally charged press conference describing their shock that a soldier who had served in Afghanistan was killed in broad daylight on the streets of London.

Rigby's wife, Rebecca, and stepfather, Ian Rigby, spoke on behalf of the family at the regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, at Bury in Greater Manchester.

"I love Lee and always will," said Mrs Rigby. "I am proud to be his wife and he was due to come up this weekend so we could continue our future together as a family … You don't expect it to happen when he's in the UK. You think they're safe."

She said her husband, from Langley, in Middleton, Greater Manchester, was a devoted father to their two-year-old son, adding: "His proudest moments were serving in London on the ceremonials with the drum corps."

Conservative Muslims have urged the government to go further and publish its own official list of speakers that it believes universities should not allow.

Mohammed Amin, vice-chair of the Conservative Muslim forum yesterday urged the faiths minister, Lady Warsi, to consider publishing a list of the proscribed preachers.

Amin said: "Too many times institutions say they would have banned someone if they had known about their background, but by then it is too late. Only government has the resources to publish this list and to be free of the threat of legal action. If someone objected to being on the list they could appeal. It is not illiberal."

Rupert Sutton, from Student Rights, an organisation aimed at preventing extremism at universities, said he hoped universities would develop internal lists of speakers liable to preach hatred or violence. He added: "There is a problem with Prevent at many universities, partly because it comes from government and partly because it is seen as anti-Muslim. It needs to be refocused much more clearly as being opposed to extremism of both right and left."

The two suspects, Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were shot and arrested at the scene and remain in police custody in separate hospitals. It emerged earlier this week that the pair had been known to security services but had not been considered a serious threat.

Adebolajo was stopped when he arrived in Kenya on a recent visit – when he may have been intending to travel on to Somalia – and was subsequently deported. Last year he also complained of harassment by MI5, which is under fire for not taking further action.

The Guardian has been also told that the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, will next week deliver a preliminary report to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, responsible for parliamentary oversight, which is probing what the service knew of the Woolwich terror suspects.

However, despite this week's setback, the agencies are putting pressure on Whitehall not to slash back its budgets in the spending review this summer, a plea backed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the intelligence and security committee.

Yesterday morning, Ed Miliband made a private visit to Woolwich barracks to pay his respects and Nick Clegg told a meeting of faith leaders in London that people had a choice to reject the "corrosive feeling of fear" affecting their lives in the aftermath of the murder. The leader of the far-right British National party, Nick Griffin visited the scene of the killing in the afternoon.

At the press conference, Rigby's stepfather struggled to contain his emotions as he read a statement, painting a portrait of a young man who had fulfilled his ambition of joining the army and who drew immense pleasure from his family:

"What can we say about Lee, our hero? When Lee was born the family adored him, he was a precious gift given to us."

He said Rigby had realised his boyhood dream in joining the army. "He was dedicated and loved his job. Lee adored and cared a lot for his family; he was very much a family man, looking out for his wife, young son, Jack, younger sisters – who in turn looked up to him. He always had a banter with them but would never ever let any harm come to them."

The last text Rigby had sent to his mother, he said, read: "Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one-in-a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you're not just my mum you're my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads."

    Woolwich killing: universities crack down on the preachers of hate, G, 24.5.2013,






Woolwich murder:

Welby praises response

of British Muslim bodies

Archbishop of Canterbury says UK's religious communities are in good position of co-operation and mutual support


Friday 24 May 2013
14.58 BST
Sam Jones and Paul Owen
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 14.58 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.
It was last modified at 14.58 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.
It was first published at 14.46 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.


The archbishop of Canterbury has praised British Muslim organisations for their response to the murder of Lee Rigby, saying that the UK's different religious communities are in a good position of co-operation and mutual support.

"We have all been appalled by the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich," said Justin Welby during a joint appearance in Leicester with Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

After offering his prayers to the soldier's family, colleagues and comrades, as well as those who had been affected within the community, the archbishop praised the way in which religious groups had reacted.

"I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups, as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time," he said.

"The strong response of the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam."

Welby described Leicester as a shining example of how religious communities work together, adding: "We are in a good position. There's very good foundations which have been laid over the last few years. It's very solid and I'm highly confident."

Mogra condemned the murder of Rigby as barbaric and pointed out that Muslims had a long, proud and honourable tradition of serving in the British armed forces.

He also called for all Britain's communities to come together, adding that some Muslims were concerned about a backlash following the killing. "But we hope that the police … will ensure law and order is maintained," he said. "If we begin to cower and hide ourselves away we allow the terrorists to win."

He added: "After the 9/11 incident, the London bombings and during the visit of the English Defence League to Leicester, the Leicester communities have all stood together, shoulder to shoulder.

"We had a tremendous public show of support for the Muslim communities after the terrorist attacks, where religious leaders, community leaders, people from all walks of life stood with us, shoulder to shoulder, and the peace has continued.

"This is one of the strengths that our country has, where people are able to make a distinction between law-abiding, peaceful citizens and the criminals."

    Woolwich murder: Welby praises response of British Muslim bodies, G, 24.5.2013,






Woolwich attack:

Lee Rigby's family tell of grief

over death of 'our hero'

Stepfather says murdered soldier loved his job
and adored his family,
and reads out last text he sent to his mother


Friday 24 May 2013
15.19 BST
Sam Jones and agency
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 15.19 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013. It was last modified at 15.19 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013. It was first published at 13.00 BST
on Friday 24 May 2013.


The family of Lee Rigby have spoken of their pride in him, their grief at losing a man who "believed life was for living", and their shock that a British soldier who had served in Afghanistan should meet his death on the streets of London.

"You don't expect it to happen when he's in the UK," said his wife, Rebecca. "You think they're safe."

Mrs Rigby, who described the Royal Fusiliers drummer as a devoted father to their two-year-old son, Jack, added: "His proudest moments were serving in London on the ceremonials with the drum corps."

The fusilier's stepfather, Ian, said: "When in Afghanistan, you come to terms with it, you know it's dangerous. You don't expect something like that on your doorstep. It's very difficult."

Rigby, from Langley, in Middleton, Greater Manchester, served with 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and was attached to the regimental recruiting team when he was hacked to death in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon in Woolwich, south-east London.

"I love Lee and always will," Mrs Rigby told a press conference at the regimental HQ of his unit in Bury on Friday. "I am proud to be his wife and he was due to come up this weekend so we could continue our future together as a family."
Drummer Lee Rigby, who was killed in a knife attack by two men in Woolwich Drummer Lee Rigby, who was killed in a knife attack in Woolwich. Photograph: Reuters

Ian Rigby read out a statement on behalf of the family, which painted a portrait of a young man who had fulfilled his ambition of joining the army and who also drew immense satisfaction and pleasure from his family.

"What can we say about Lee, our hero?" it began. "When Lee was born the family adored him, he was a precious gift given to us."

That said, the family recalled, he was not always the easiest of teenagers. "Lee had a fiery temper when he was younger: I used to sit on him to calm him down till he got too big at 15, then he used to sit on me," his stepfather said.

"Lee's dream growing up was always to join the army which he succeeded in doing, he was dedicated and loved his job. Lee adored and cared a lot for his family; he was very much a family man, looking out for his wife, young son, Jack, younger sisters – who in turn they looked up to him. He always had a banter with them but would never ever let any harm come to them."

The stepfather, who struggled at times to contain his emotions, said Rigby was a man who loved people and who believed life was for living.

He added: "Courtney and Amy, his younger sisters, wrote this for Lee: 'Rest in peace Lee, we loved you so much, you didn't deserve this. You fought for your country and did it well. You will always be our hero we are just upset you left us so early. Love you Lee. Goodnight.'"

The last text Rigby had sent to his mother, he said, read: "Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one-in-a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you're not just my mum you're my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads."

It was now the family's turn to say goodbye, he said. "We would like to say goodnight, Lee. Rest in peace, our fallen soldier, we love you loads and words cannot describe how loved and sadly missed you will be.

"We would like to thank everybody, the police and army for the amazing support we have received and for all the goodwill wishes we are receiving from all over the country in memory of Lee. Our hearts have been ripped apart from us, everyone is struggling to cope with this tragedy, so we would ask the press to respect our privacy to grieve our son's parting as we try to come to terms with this."

He then read out a poem, a tribute to Lee from an unknown poster on a Facebook page. It read:

You fought bravely and with honour died,
You leave your family so full of pride,
Sleep well young soldier, your job is done,
Your war is over, your battle won.
Our family chain is broken and nothing is the same,
But as God takes us one by one,
Our chain will link again.

    Woolwich attack: Lee Rigby's family tell of grief over death of 'our hero',
    G, 24.5.2013,






Suspect's journey

from schoolboy football

to phonejacking and jihad

Those who knew Michael Adebolajo
recall his typical London childhood,
before his student days saw him pursue path to jihad


The Guardian
Thursday 23 May 2013
23.19 BST
Peter Walker, Shiv Malik, Matthew Taylor,
Sandra Laville, Vikram Dodd and Ben Quinn
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 23.19 BST
on Thursday 23 May 2013.
A version appeared on p4 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Friday 24 May 2013.
It was last modified at 09.56 BST on Friday 24 May 2013.

The mother of one of the suspects in the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby moved her family out of London in an attempt to remove him from the influence of a gang.

But Michael Adebolajo returned to the capital to go to university and it was while he was a student that he appears to have set foot on the path that took him from being a schoolboy to an alleged extremist intent on jihad. His tutor, it is claimed, was Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the now banned al-Muhajiroun.

"He was on our ideological wavelength," said Anjem Choudary, a senior figure in the organisation. Adebolajo, whose family are Christians, sealed his conversion to Islam by taking the name Mujaahid – meaning one who engages in jihad.

The 28-year-old was a regular at the al-Muhajiroun stall outside the HSBC branch on Woolwich high street, handing out extremist literature, and one witness said he was recently seen outside Plumstead community centre encouraging an audience to go to Syria to fight.

For the last eight years his activities have been such that he featured in several counter-terrorist investigations, always as a peripheral figure and not the central subject of the inquiry. Sources said there was nothing in his activities which indicated that he might carry out such an attack.

"You would see them there every week," Atma Singh, a Sikh leader said, speaking on Thursday outside Woolwich's neo-classical Victorian town hall. "They were there over a period of several years, handing out radical literature. They were about eight to 10 of them.

"They stopped coming at some point but I was quite annoyed that they were able to do this for so long. Nobody tried to shut the stall down."

Six addresses were searched yesterday, three in south-east London, one in east London, one in north London and one in Lincolnshire. The impact of the investigation on Adebolajo's family was seen in searches at London addresses where relatives lived and 150 miles away in Saxilby, Lincolnshire, at the semi-detached modern home where his mother, Tina, had moved her family in an attempt to remove her son from bad influences.

Adebolajo himself was being held under armed guard in hospital, where counter-terrorist police were waiting to interview him over the hacking to death of 25-year-old Rigby.

The second suspect – believed to be a 22-year-old British man – was being held in a different hospital, also under armed guard. One of the addresses searched in south-east London was believed to be his home; neighbours said they had recognised the man as the suspect, that he lived with his mother and that he disappeared for a period and when he returned had converted to Islam and appeared more "distant". It is not known whether the second suspect was linked to al-Muhajiroun – Choudary said he did not know him.

Adebolajo attended meetings and demonstrations run by al-Muhajiroun for at least five years, from around 2005 to 2011, where he heard an interpretation of Islam preached by Bakri Mohammed, which many Muslims would consider extreme. Bakri Mohammed told the Guardian that he had known Adebolajo, who had attended many meetings. These included al-Muhajiroun events at community centres and a mosque in the Woolwich area.

Bakri Mohammed, now banned from Britain, said as a new convert Adebolajo received special attention: "In 2004 Muslims were feeling a lot of pressures from new laws and from Iraq."

Adebolajo asked the group when violence may be justified. "He asked these type of questions, like many others," said Bakri Mohammed: "He was asking what to do, he was most likely affected by the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan." Adebolajo appears to have later attended events organised by successor groups to al-Muhajiroun until around 2011.

These interests contrast with the accounts of the normal boy that Adebolajo was described as in his earlier life. Born in Lambeth on 10 December 1984 to a family of Nigerian heritage, he grew up in Romford, played football and was said to be a joker within a large group of friends.

His family lived in Eastern Avenue in the town and attended the local church. He has a sister, Blessing, and a brother, Jeremiah.

Both boys went to Marshalls Park school in Romford until at 16 Michael moved to Havering sixth form college. He later attended Greenwich University, where he lived in student accommodation in 2004 and 2005.

Friends at Marshalls Park school talked of how he was an ordinary student until he became involved with a local gang and began "jacking" phones and carrying a knife, they said.

Louise, 26 from Romford, said she knew Adebolajo and Jeremiah from Marshalls Park, where Michael was known as "Naan" and his brother "Jel".

"Naan was two years older than us … Jel was a nice boy. Quite quiet," she said. "We were all really close because there was quite a few who used to hang around together."

She said Jeremiah was "obsessed with the Harry Potter books". She described Michael as clever, popular and extremely funny. "He was a down-to-earth, nice guy, there was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing … [that would make you] have thought, obviously this would have happened," she said.

Louise, who did not want to give her full name, said Adebolajo's mother was strict and dressed in traditional West African clothes to go to church most Sundays. "They were strong on their beliefs."

Louise said that as he headed into his final years at Marshalls Park and then Havering sixth form, Adebolajo became involved with a criminal gang.

"As he got older he started mixing with other people from outside [the school].

"We used to go around the house and there used to be 20 black guys and they would walk around the streets … they were stealing people's phones and that and they had knives."

She said Adebolajo would carry a knife, not just for protection but as part of his criminal activities.

It was then that his parents decided to get the boys out of Romford. "His mum and dad clocked on to that and they moved him away.

"No one has spoke to them since they moved because his mum wanted to get them away from everyone."

Other friends from Marshalls Park conversed on social media to express their shock that Adebolajo was at the centre of a counter-terrorist investigation.

"We left year 2001," one said. "And he was always a good guy at school, do anything for anyone ."

Another added: "They used to live down the eastern avenue two minutes from marshals, they had a garage on the side of the house and Jel had a little telly an that in there and loads of people uses to go round there, from what I remember they were nice boys."

A former neighbour of the family remembered them as friendly and welcoming churchgoers.

The man, who asked not to be named, said his wife used to give Adebolajo's mother – whom he remembered as working for social services – a lift to church. "They were very pleasant, a very ordinary normal family," he said.

However Graham Silverton, 63, who has lived in the street for 25 years, said that when Adebolajo was a teenager he was unruly and would get into trouble. He claimed one of the neighbours' children, a teenage girl, had once gone to the Adebolajos' door to retrieve a ball kicked into their garden and was insulted and punched by Michael.

Kemi Ibrahim-Adeoti, 45, described Adebolajo as a typical teenager growing up. She said: "Michael was older than my son, I knew him from when he was about 17. He used to come around and play with my son and I didn't have any problems with him coming around.

"Michael was just a typical teenager, you know, he would rebel against his parents once or twice that I know of."

In 2004 Michael's mother, Tina, moved her son away to Lincoln but he later returned to the capital, where he became a student at Greenwich University.

Addresses in Greenwich where he lived as a student were searched by counter terrorist police on Thursday, as was the home where Adebolajo's sister lived in Romford.

Another address in Greenwich – thought to be that of the second suspect – was also sealed off and searched early on Thursday. The small flat is on the fourth floor of a block, Macey House, about four miles from the site of Wednesday's attack . It is registered as the home of a 22-year-old British man, also of Nigerian descent, who lived in the property with his mother.

Neighbours at the scene said he lived there with his mother and went to a local college – although this has not been confirmed by police.

One neighbour, Madeleine Edwards, said the man at the flat had been involved in gangs when he was younger. She said he had left the property for about a year after giving evidence in a murder trial.

"His mother said he had to disappear," said Edwards.

When he came back Edwards had converted to Islam, she said, and had become "distant".

"He could see my disdain at the direction he had gone in," she said.

Another neighbour, Jonathan Ackworth, 42, said: "I was so shocked when I saw his picture on the television … I used to see him coming and going and would say hello – he seemed perfectly pleasant."

Two uniformed officers stood guard outside the top-floor flat as plainclothes officers and forensics detectives went in and out of the property yesterday.

Many neighbours in the block – which sits close to the banks of the Thames – were visibly shaken. One said she did not want to talk because she feared reprisals from rightwing groups.

"This is a good block and people can't quite believe this has happened right on our doorstep – a lot of the neighbours are in tears today," said Ackworth.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said officers had knocked on the door and asked if they could use her flat to watch the property, which was raided several hours later.

    Suspect's journey from schoolboy football to phonejacking and jihad, G, 23.5.2013,






Woolwich attack: MI5 knew

of men suspected of killing Lee Rigby

• Security service assessed suspects but did not investigate
• Victim Lee Rigby had served in the army for seven years
• Police raid homes in London and Lincolnshire
• Extremist cleric says he tutored suspect


Thursday 23 May 2013
21.22 BST
Vikram Dodd, Nick Hopkins, Nicholas Watt
and Sandra Laville
The Guardian
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 21.22 BST
on Thursday 23 May 2013.
A version appeared on p1 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Friday 24 May 2013.
It was last modified at 01.10 BST on Friday 24 May 2013.


The two suspects in the butchering to death of a British soldier had been known to the domestic security service MI5 and the police over an eight-year period, but had been assessed as peripheral figures and thus not subjected to a full-scale investigation, it has emerged .

One of the two attackers was named as Michael Olumide Adebolajo, the man seen in dramatic video brandishing knives and justifying the attack as a strike against the west while his victim lay yards away bloodied and fatally wounded.

Adebolajo, from a Nigerian churchgoing family who later converted to Islam, had complained of harassment by MI5 in the last three years after he came to the intelligence agency's attention.

The admission came as the Ministry of Defence named the victim of the attack in Woolwich as Drummer Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old from Rochdale who had served in the army for seven years. Rigby, who had spent six months in Afghanistan in 2009, had a two-year-old son, and had been based in London since 2011.

The suspects, shot by police shortly after the incident, remain in separate but unidentified hospitals, too badly injured to be questioned.

Detectives investigating Rigby's death also arrested a 29-year-old man and woman on suspicion of conspiracy to murder the soldier, suggesting there may have been a wider conspiracy to carry out the attack. The 29-year-old woman was arrested at a flat in Greenwich, south-east London.

Parliament's intelligence and security committee would examine the wider role of the police and MI5, David Cameron said on Thursday, an inquiry that is expected to address any lessons that may need to be learned after counterterrorism officials decided not to monitor the suspects.

Speaking in Downing Street before a visit to Woolwich, Cameron said: "You would not expect me to comment on this when a criminal investigation is ongoing, but what I can say is this: as is the normal practice in these sorts of cases, the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be able to review the actions of the police, and the intelligence and security committee will be able to do the same for the wider agencies, but nothing should be done to get in the way of their absolutely vital work."

There were some suggestions that one of the two men may have tried to visit Somalia; Whitehall sources did not deny reports that one of the suspects was stopped while trying to travel to the war-torn east African country. Somalia is feared by counterterrorism officials to be a training ground for violent jihadists.

The extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad, who has been expelled from Britain, told the Guardian he had tutored Adebolajo in Islam after he converted to the religion in 2003. He was the former leader of al-Muhajiroun, an organisation banned for professing extremist views. Mohammad described Adebolajo as a shy man who had been angered by the Iraq invasion, and who would ask questions about when violence was justified.

Adebolajo had a Muslim name, Mujaahid, which means one who engages in jihad. He went to meetings of the now banned Islamist organisation from around 2004 to 2011, but stopped attending those meetings, and those of its successor organisations, two years ago.

The soldier's murder is being treated as a terrorist incident. Thursday saw another meeting of the government crisis committee Cobra, chaired by Cameron. However, so far the national threat level from al-Qaida-inspired terrorism remains unchanged, suggesting that officials do not believe Britain faces a wave of similar attacks.

The immediate focus is on the criminal investigation, which on Thursday saw detectives from Scotland Yard's counterterrorism command raid five addresses in London, and one in Lincolnshire that was the Adebolajo family home.

Sources stressed that the investigation was at an early stage, but detectives are examining whether the arrested woman was in a relationship with one of the two men detained on Wednesday, and what the links are between the four people they currently have in custody. The arrests are a clear signal that counterterrorism detectives suspect the attackers may not have acted alone.

Adebolajo's mother moved her family out of London to Lincolnshire in an attempt to remove him from the influence of a street gang. But Michael Adebolajo returned to the capital to go to university. The 28-year-old was a regular volunteer at the al-Muhajiroun stall outside HSBC bank on Woolwich High Street, handing out extremist literature. One witness said he had been recently seen outside Plumstead community centre encouraging an audience to go to Syria to fight.

His family were churchgoing Christians of Nigerian heritage but he converted to Islam about 10 years ago and investigators are trying to establish how he became radicalised to the point that he may have committed violence.

The murder led to condemnation from President Obama who said: "I condemn in the strongest terms the appalling attack against a British service member in Woolwich on May 22. The United States stands resolute with the United Kingdom, our ally and friend, against violent extremism and terror.

There can be absolutely no justification for such acts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim, the police and security services responding to this horrific act and the communities they serve, and the British people.Our special relationship with the United Kingdom is especially important during times of trial."

Among British authorities there are fears of a violence and potential attempts by extremist groups such as the English Defence League to exploit the tragedy. In London police said they had deployed 1,200 extra officers amid fears of a backlash. Dozens of Islamophobic incidents were reported in the wake of the murder, including attacks on four mosques.

Police tried to rebut claims of a delayed response saying they were first called to reports of a man being attacked in the street at 14.20. Four minutes later they were told by witnesses that one attacker had a gun, at which point, 14.24, officers in an armed response vehicle which patrols London's streets, were ordered to the scene.

Five minutes later, at 14.29, the first unarmed officers arrived at the scene, and at 14.34 armed officers arrived and two of them opened fire, and a Taser was also fired.

    Woolwich attack: MI5 knew of men suspected of killing Lee Rigby, G, 23.5.2013,






Woolwich attack

will only make us stronger,

says Cameron

Prime minister says soldier's murder
was attack on British way of life and betrayal of Islam,
as police prepare to question suspects


Thursday 23 May 2013
14.41 BST
Sam Jones, Sandra Laville and Peter Walker
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 14.41 BST
on Thursday 23 May 2013.
It was last modified at 17.42 BST on Thursday 23 May 2013. It was first published at 12.35 BST on Thursday 23 May 2013.


David Cameron has issued a defiant message after the murder of a British soldier in London, vowing to bring those responsible to justice and insisting such attacks on "the British way of life" serve only to unite people.

"What happened in Woolwich yesterday has sickened us all," the prime minister said on Thursday. "The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together, make us stronger."

Speaking outside Downing Street after a meeting of the government's Cobra crisis committee, Cameron described the attack as a betrayal of Islam, adding that it was "solely and purely" the responsibility of the individuals involved.

"This view is shared by every community in our country," he said. "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."
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett Ingrid Loyau-Kennett.

He praised the police and security services for their work but also paid tribute to the bravery of Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the cub pack leader who spoke to the two suspects and told them they would not win their fight.

"When told by the attacker he wanted to start a war in London, she replied: 'You're going to lose, it is only you versus many,'" said Cameron. "She spoke for us all."

He urged people not to let such acts intimidate them or stop them going about their daily business.

"One of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives."

The prime minister's statement came as police prepared to question the two suspects, who remain under armed guard in hospital after being shot by police, and searched properties in London, Essex and Lincolnshire.

Based on its own reporting, the Guardian can report that the name of one of the suspects is Michael Olumide Adebolajo. It is understood that he is a British man and the other suspect is a naturalised British citizen. Both are of Nigerian descent but are not thought to be related.

The Guardian understands that both men have featured in counter-terrorism investigations over the last eight years.

But it is understood that, while they were known to the police and security services, they were considered peripheral figures among the many extremists whose activities cross the radar of investigators.
Police and forensic officers near the scene of Woolwich attack Police and forensic officers at the scene of the attack. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

Adebolajo was frequently seen in Woolwich handing out Islamist literature in the High Street.

It is also understood that one of the two suspects is known to have expressed an interest in travelling to Somalia to support the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab, but whether he was actually arrested, and if so, when, is unclear.

Police and the intelligence services are looking into possible links between the two men and the outlawed group al-Muhajiroun, which was originally formed by the extremist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed. That would be an obvious line of inquiry and may not necessarily indicate their involvement with the group.

Scotland Yard was also facing questions about why, according to several witnesses, an armed response team took 20 minutes to arrive at the scene.

While members of the public confronted the suspects as they wielded their blood-stained knives, unarmed police officers waited behind the cordon for the armed response.

However, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said officers reached Artillery Place within nine minutes of the first 999 call telling them a man was being attacked. It took 10 minutes for firearms officers to reach the scene after they were alerted to the presence of a gun.

"I would like to address some of the speculation as to how long it took the Met to respond yesterday as this incident started to unfold," he said.

"We first received a 999 call from the public at 2.20pm stating a man was being attacked, further 999 calls stated that the attackers were in possession of a gun. We had officers at the scene within nine minutes of receiving that first 999 call.

"Once that information about a gun or guns being present was known, firearms officers were assigned at 2.24pm. Firearms officers were there and dealing with the incident 10 minutes after they were assigned, 14 minutes after the first call to the Met."
Soldiers walk outside Royal Artillery barracks close to where a soldier was killed in Woolwich Soldiers walk outside Royal Artillery barracks near where the soldier was killed. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Counter-terrorism officers were leading the murder inquiry and a property in Essex – believed to be the home of a relative of one suspect – was sealed off on Thursday. Around half a dozen uniformed officers blocked the stairwell outside the second-floor flat inside a small, 1940s-built block in Harold Wood, near Romford, and asked anyone approaching not to enter the building.

Neighbours in the suburban street said they knew nothing of the sister, or of reports that the suspected attacker may have stayed at the flat sometimes.

A house where one of the suspect's family lives in Lincolnshire was being searched this morning by police. They would not confirm the address of the house but it is understood to be in Saxilby.

Security remained tight on Thursday at the army barracks near the scene of the killing. Although troops in London were advised in the immediate aftermath of the attack not to wear their uniforms outside their bases, the Cobra meeting agreed that issuing orders against wearing military uniforms in public would not be the right response.

The Ministry of Defence said: "As a result of the incident in Woolwich, a number of additional security measures have been put in place. As you would expect, we would not talk about the details of these measures."

    Woolwich attack will only make us stronger, says Cameron, G, 23.5.2013,






Lee Rigby:

an ordinary soldier

who died in extraordinary circumstances

Woolwich attack victim who served in Afghanistan
during one of worst periods of fighting,
dies on London street


The Guardian
Thursday 23 May 2013
20.44 BST
Nick Hopkins and Nigel Bunyan
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 20.44 BST
on Thursday 23 May 2013.
A version appeared on p1 of the Main section section
of the Guardian on Friday 24 May 2013.
It was last modified at 01.10 BST on Friday 24 May 2013.


Lee Rigby was born in Manchester, spent a year in Cyprus, and served for six months in Afghanistan with the military during one of the most violent periods of the 12-year-long conflict.

His friends and family could never have imagined that the 25-year-old would lose his life in broad daylight, on a busy London street, at the hands of two men wielding knives and boasting allegiance to a virulent form of Islamist extremism.

These men would not have known that their victim was a father of a two-year-old boy, Jack.

These were some of the bare details of Rigby's life, which were set out by the Ministry of Defence last night in the format it uses for anyone who has died on duty in Helmand province.

His family paid tribute to "a loving son, husband, father, brother and uncle", adding that he always wanted to be in the Army and "live life and enjoy himself".

It had taken the MoD longer than it would have liked to honour Drummer Rigby because of the unusual and shocking nature of his death, and the need to protect his family, who still live in Manchester, and are now being shielded from the furore by the army.

When the eulogies emerged, they offered a portrait of an ordinary soldier who had died in extraordinary circumstances. Rigby was born in Crumpsall, Manchester, in July 1987, went to a local school and joined the army as a teenager in 2006.

He completed an infantry training course at Catterick and was selected to be a member of the Corps of Drums, posted to the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Life in the battalion took him to Cyprus as a machine gunner, based at Dhekalia. And it took him back to London in 2008, when he stood outside the royal palaces to perform the battalion's public duties commitment.

But like every serving soldier, he was due a spell in Afghanistan, which came during the summer of 2009, when he was sent to Helmand province to spend six months at a remote, dusty, forward operating base called Patrol Base Woqab in Musa Qala.

A member of the fire support group, he was in Helmand during one of the worst periods of fighting against the Taliban, and life in the base would have been austere – and hot. Pot Noodles were the food of choice, rather than army ration packs.

Since then he had been in Germany, and in the past two years he had been based in Woolwich in a recruitment post; he also assisted with duties at Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London. Those who commanded him, or served alongside him, said Rigby was an "extremely popular and witty soldier", who had been a lifelong supporter of Manchester United, and was never shy of letting people know it.

But at the family home in Middleton, Rochdale, there was distress. At one point a doctor was summoned to the house to treat one of the bereaved.

Police stood on duty outside as reporters and television crews arrived, but members of the media agreed to withdraw from the immediate area after being told a tribute to the murdered soldier would be issued by the MoD later in the evening.

His family issued a statement: "Lee was lovely. He would do anything for anybody, he always looked after his sisters and always protected them. He took a 'big brother' role with everyone.

"All he wanted to do from when he was a little boy, was be in the Army. He wanted to live life and enjoy himself. His family meant everything to him. He was a loving son, husband, father, brother, and uncle, and a friend to many. We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time."

Military colleagues also provided tributes. In one of a number of statements from his colleagues, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, the commanding officer of the Second Fusiliers, described him as a dedicated and professional soldier. "His ability, talent and personality made him a natural choice to work in the recruiting group. He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Second Fusiliers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this incredibly difficult time. Once a Fusilier, Always a Fusilier," he added.

Captain Alan Williamson thought of Rigby as "a cheeky and humorous man" who was an "extremely popular member of the Fire Support Group [FSG]". Described as always willing to help out younger members of the FSG, Williamson added that Rigby's loss would be felt across the battalion while conceding that that would be "nothing compared to how his family must be feeling at this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them".

Warrant Officer Ned Miller said he was "one of the battalion's great characters always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood". His regimental colleague said he was easily identified by a characteristic smile, reflecting how "proud he was to be a member of the Drums. He would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again".

Other details emerged about Rigby, who was married in 2007, but was understood to be estranged from his wife, Rebecca. Vicar Guy Jamieson, who married the couple at St Anne-in-the-Grove church in Southowram, West Yorkshire, told reporters: "I remember his wedding well. He had already spoken to the chaplain at Catterick and came to me well prepared with lots of questions. The wedding day was wonderful, as all weddings are.

"Of course because it was a military wedding it requires a lot of preparation. I remember sitting next to Lee on the front pew before everything started and reminding him what his first words to say were. This is an absolute tragedy. When the news first came through yesterday I felt sickened."

    Lee Rigby: an ordinary soldier who died in extraordinary circumstances,
    G, 23.5.2013,






Woolwich killing:

meat cleaver, knife

and jihadist claims filmed on mobile

• British soldier dead in suspected terror attack in London
• Knife attack near barracks 'an eye for an eye', says suspect
• Killing in street is 'absolutely sickening' says prime minister


Wednesday 22 May 2013
21.39 BST
Vikram Dodd, Shiv Malik and Ben Quinn
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 21.39 BST
on Wednesday 22 May 2013.
It was last modified at 03.17 BST on Thursday 23 May 2013.


A man suspected of staging a terrorist attack that left a British soldier dead near a military barracks in London, was caught on camera clutching a meat cleaver and knife in hands apparently covered in the blood of his victim, as he justified the violence as part of a jihadist-inspired fight against the west.

The incident happened in broad daylight, 400 metres from the perimeter of the Royal Artillery barracks, in Woolwich, south-east London, sparking a terrorist alert that saw the government crisis committee Cobra convene in emergency session. Hours later, David Cameron, who was in Paris and was due to return , described what had occurred as "an absolutely sickening attack".

Witnesses said a man was hacked at by two assailants with weapons including a machete, carrying strong echoes of attacks abroad, at about 2.20pm. It is understood that the victim was a soldier, although neither his identity nor profession was confirmed . It is believed the person died after suffering knife injuries, possibly around the head.

The two men remained on the scene, until armed police arrived up to 20 minutes later. They were shot and apprehended by armed officers and taken to two separate hospitals where they were being treated for their injuries under armed guard in the aftermath of the first al-Qaida inspired attack to claim a life on British soil since the 7 July bombings in London in 2005.

As counter-terrorism officials raced to work out if the incident was a random, macabre event or the start of a trend, astonishing footage emerged which explained why the government was so quick to treat it as a terrorist attack.

In mobile phone video footage first broadcast by ITV News, one of the suspects was seen brandishing a cleaver and a knife. With the body of the victim lying yards away, the man said: "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. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Speaking in a British accent, the man said: "We must fight them. I apologise that women had to witness this today. But in our land, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don't care about you.

"You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start bussin' our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No it's going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace." In the footage, the man then walks away and talks to another suspected attacker, pictures of whom were also circulating.

The rhetoric was reminiscent of that used in al-Qaida-influenced propaganda, in particular the reference to "our land" – phraseology used by violent jihadists to describe Muslim territory being despoiled by western soldiers. In a statement, Metropolitan police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the counter-terrorism command was leading the investigation after two men were arrested.

Reuters reported on Wednesday night that British officials were investigating a possible Nigerian link in the attack.

Witnesses at the scene spoke of attempts made by some passersby to stop the attackers. One of the assailants reportedly danced near the body and then approached bus passengers, asking people to take his photograph.

There were unconfirmed reports that the attackers may have had a gun and raised it, possibly even fired it as armed police arrived. Julia Wilders, a witness, said: "I walked back up there and the tall black bloke had changed the gun to the other guy and he had two meat cleavers in his hand.

"And the response police turned up and he's ran towards them with meat cleavers before I could even get out of the car so they shot him. And then the other one lifts the gun up and they shot him as well." Later a photograph surfaced of a second potential suspect holding a bloody knife.

One witness, identified as James Heneghan, said he and his partner saw two black men attack a young man aged around 20 in a Help for Heroes T-shirt with kitchen knives like he was "a piece of meat".
Woolwich map Location of the attack in Woolwich, south-east London. Credit: Guardian Graphics

"They were hacking at this poor guy, literally," he told LBC radio.

"They were hacking at him, chopping him, cutting him."

The barracks near to where the attack happened is home to the Princess of Wales's regiment and the King's Troop, which is a ceremonial unit that relocated to Woolwich last year. One source suggested the victim had been returning to the barracks after attending an army recruitment event in central London.

Cameron, in Paris for talks with the French president, Franηois Hollande, described the killing as "truly shocking" and said he had asked the home secretary, Theresa May, to chair a meeting of Cobra, the government's emergency committee.

He said Britain had faced terror attacks before and added: "We will never buckle in the face of it."

The prime minister will chair another Cobra meeting on Thursday morning .

May said she had been briefed by the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, on the "sickening and barbaric" incident. The terrorism threat level remains at substantial, meaning an attack is a strong possibility.

The incident was a new style of terrorist attack in Britain, and reminiscent of a past and disrupted plot by violent jihadists in Birmingham in 2007 to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier.

David Dixon, headteacher of nearby Musgrave school, said he heard gunshots and locked the school down: "I saw the body lying in the road. We locked the gates, we locked everything down to make sure the children were safe inside … we kept them safe."

Muslim community leaders and law enforcement sources said they were alert to the danger of a violent backlash following the attack, a fear heightened by Woolwich's past history of racial tensions.

The Woolwich and Greenwich MP, Nick Raynsford, said: "Obviously at a time when there are rumours circulating there must be cause for concern." Members of the extremist English Defence League clashed with police in the area late in the night.

It was Raynsford who first said that a member of the armed forces was most likely to be the victim. He said: "The incident occurred early afternoon. One individual is dead, two others are seriously injured and in hospital. We think a serving soldier was the victim. We don't know the circumstances surrounding the incident. We do know a number of weapons have been seized. They include a gun, various knives and a machete, apparently."

The Muslim Council of Britain said: "This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom. We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail."

Commander Simon Letchford, from Woolwich police, said: "At approx 1420 we were called to reports of an assault in John Wilson Street, Woolwich where one man was being assaulted by two other men. A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm.

"Officers, including local Greenwich officers, arrived at the scene and shortly after firearms officers arrived on the scene. On their arrival at the scene they found a man, who was later pronounced dead.

"Two men, who we believe from early reports to have been carrying weapons, were shot by police.

"They were taken to separate London hospitals, they are receiving treatment for their injuries."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the shooting by police, which is standard in cases where officers open fire.

The Cobra meeting was attended by Hogan-Howe, MI5 officials and senior government officials.

Top of the list of issues they needed to address was a trawl of intelligence to see if there was any indication of further attacks, and clues as to whether the suspected attackers acted alone or with help.

Woolwich killing: meat cleaver, knife and jihadist claims filmed on mobile,




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