On a busy street in southeast London near the Woolwich army barracks, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, British citizens and converts to Islam, allegedly hit soldier Lee Rigby, who was on foot, with their car, then set upon him with knives and meat cleavers shouting “Allahu Akbar!” After hacking Rigby to death, Adebolajo and Adebowale waited for some 15 to 20 minutes for police to arrive.
One of the numerous witnesses filmed a bloodstained Adebolajo explaining the political motive for the barbarous killing: “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.” The two were shot and arrested by police.
Adebolajo and Adebowale, both of whose parents are from Nigeria, were reportedly involved with al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group in Britain that openly praised al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings targeting civilians on public transportation in London. Al-Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri, who was banned from Britain and now lives in Lebanon, praised the May 22 terrorist butchery and commended Adebolajo “as courageous, brave. Not running away,” reported Reuters.
“We wholeheartedly condemn all those who engage in acts of terror and fully reject any suggestion by them that religion or politics can justify this kind of violence,” said a statement by relatives of Adebolajo that expressed condolences to the Rigby family. “We believe that all right thinking members of society share this view, wherever they were born and whatever their religion and political beliefs.”
Speaking on BBC TV a few days after the killing, Home Secretary Theresa May urged boosting government power to ban political organizations and control access to media and online content. “One of the issues we need to look at is whether we have got the right processes, the right rules in place in relation to what is being beamed into people’s homes,” she said.
With former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson sitting alongside her in support, May also said she planned to revive the Communications Data Bill, referred to by the media as the “snoopers’ charter.”
The bill would give police access to anyone’s website activity, emails, mobile calls and social media messages, which Internet and phone providers would be compelled to maintain for a year. Current law provides cops and spy agencies access to details of message senders and recipients without content.
The snoopers’ charter has been blocked in Parliament by the Liberal Democrats. After the killing, one leading member of the Liberal Democrats, two former Labour ministers and London Mayor Boris Johnson led calls for its immediate introduction.
Members of the ultrarightist English Defence League clashed with riot cops at a protest of about 100 in the center of Woolwich May 22. Some 1,500 mobilized for an EDL march in Newcastle May 25 to protest the opening of an Islamic school. The following day, hundreds of EDL supporters marched through Woolwich, and about 1,000 marched through central London to the prime minister’s residence May 27.
The rightist British National Party announced an action in Woolwich June 1 under the banner “United against Muslim terror.”
The media has reported a spike in anti-Muslim actions, including nine attacks on mosques, assaults, racial abuse, graffiti and women having their headscarves pulled. On May 24, a petrol bomb was thrown during Friday prayers at a mosque near Milton Keynes. Two days later an Islamic center in Grimsby was firebombed.
Government officials have sought to counter the rightist backlash with talk of maintaining good “community relations.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke in London May 24 alongside Muslim leaders and representatives of the British Army.
The killing has helped the British rulers whip up some patriotic fervor. According to the Daily Telegraph, thousands lined the streets of York in northern England two days after the killing to greet soldiers returning from Afghanistan where 9,000 British troops are stationed.
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