Two men that hacked a British soldier to death in the street of London claimed it was an act of peace, a message that the Western world should remove their soldiers from Muslim countries. It was a single horrific assault on the average citizens of England and its allies.
The gruesome death of an unknown soldier came at the hands of two men, believed to be Londoners of Nigerian decent, who set on him with hatchets, machetes and a collection of other instruments.
As the shocked public watched on in horror, before a brave few approached the men unarmed, the men spoke. Video captured one of the men begging citizens to abandon their government, to change their ways, lest more attacks strike city streets.
One woman, a 48-year-old mother of two, stood toe-to-toe with one of the men, a man who was still gripping a cleaver and hovering over a body he had just finished hacking and mutilating. “We won’t stop fighting,” he told her. “You are going to lose,” she said back.
This attack, on a man simply walking down the street, will not end in a shift in government, or a policy change. It won’t be the divisive force the attackers claimed they were seeking. It will not be about two armed terrorists. It will be about the unarmed mother who stood in their way, staring back.
The Globe and Mail quotes Prime Minister David Cameron:
The people that did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.
There is something rotten in this whole affair, something besides the obvious.
It is the spectacle of the thing, the gore absent a grand stage. It is the apparent desire to shock and horrify the public even beyond the attack itself. Terror attacks are often "go big" affairs, meant to cause mass casualties and make a loud, un-ignorable statement.
They hit the world's tallest skyscrapers, the finish line of a famous marathon. Airports and subways. Passenger trains crossing a bridge between two countries.
This attack was on a man seemingly chosen at random – a soldier, it turns out – murdered in brutal fashion while, reports suggest, the attackers tried to capture it all on video.
The suspects didn't try to fight their way out, or commit suicide. They just waited for police, before staging a final confrontation. Both were shot, both are in custody. The men even gave interviews to members of the stunned public gathered at the site.
“We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” one man said in a video obtained by The Sun newspaper. “Your people will never be safe.”
The Telegraph newspaper has an interview with Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a mother and Cub Scout leader who jumped off a bus and confronted the two heavily-armed men after the attack.
“Being a cub leader I have my first aid so when I saw this guy on the floor I thought it was an accident then I saw the guy was dead and I could not feel any pulse," she told the newspaper.
“And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body’.
“So I thought 'OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said 'what do you want?’"
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According to Loyau-Kennett, the man claimed to have killed the soldier because he was angry that Muslims were being killed in Muslim countries. A tooth for a tooth.
She told him: “Right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose, what would you like to do?”
As she confronted the men, others on the street moved to shield the body. Government leaders described these as acts of courage – a sign that Britain wouldn't take such attacks lightly.
The boldness shown by Loyau-Kennett in the face of horrific danger has been seen before. When terror attacks, heroes often come from unlikely places.
Carlos Arredondo, known as the man in the cowboy hat, was a truck driver lauded for his bravery in helping victims of the Boston Marathon. He was a just man standing nearby when the bombs went off and jumped in to help the victims.
Following an assault on the Glasgow Airport in 2007, when two men tried to drive an explosive-laden vehicle into the building, baggage handler John Smeaton stepped forward to fight off and subdue the attackers.
“Glasgow doesn’t accept this. That’s just Glasgow; we’ll set about ye,” he told reporters afterward.
This tiny act of terrorism in London’s streets, brutal as it was, could have a quivering impact on Western society. It could be another hit, coming on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing. It could be remembered for the people who murdered a stranger and claimed it a mission of peace.
Or it could be remembered for the 48-year-old mother who faced the horror and said, “You are going to lose.”