Details are emerging about the two men suspected of hacking an off-duty soldier to death on a London street
On Wednesday, Britain was rocked by a gruesome daylight incident in which two men appeared to hack an off-duty soldier to death with a knife and meat cleaver in the Woolwich district of London.
One suspect was caught on camera defending the brutal attack afterwards. And The Daily Mirror has obtained more dramatic video from after the attack. One suspect can be seen charging a police car and going down after an officer fires two shots.
The suspected attackers, who authorities believe were working independently of any terrorist organization, were both shot by police and then taken to separate hospitals. The victim was identified as Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
Here is what we know about the suspects so far:
1. They had previously been investigated for terrorist ties
The Guardian reports that over the past eight years the men had been subjects in various terrorism investigations by British security services, but they "were considered peripheral figures among the many extremists whose activities cross the radar of investigators."
One of the suspects, Michael Adebolajo, reportedly tried to travel to Somalia to train with terrorist network Al-Shabaab, according to The Telegraph.
2. One suspect is a British citizen named Michael Adebowale
Neighbors have identified one of the men in the video as Michael Adebowale, 22, according to The Telegraph. His neighbor, Jonathan Ackworth, said of him:
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. Everybody is in total shock. [The Telegraph]
Adebowale, the son of a probation officer, is a British citizen of Nigerian descent who once attended the University of Greenwich. A friend who claims to have known Adebowale since he was 11 years old told The Daily Mail that Adebowale converted to Islam in his late teens and that he was "preaching Islam, preaching peace" and "not preaching anything bad or anything negative."
Early Friday morning, police were seen leaving the apartment in Greenwich where Adebowale was registered as a voter. Reporter John Simpson captured it on Twitter:
— John Simpson (@thejohnsimpson) May 24, 2013
Sources tell the BBC that the other suspect is Michael Adebolajo, 28, also a British citizen of Nigerian descent. He reportedly came from a devout Christian family but converted to Islam after leaving the University of Greenwich, which he attended with Adebowale, in 2001. The BBC's sources described him as a "bright and witty" college student.
Adebolajo grew up in the London suburb of Romford with two siblings, where he played soccer, took the bus to school, and had friends, according to The Guardian.
4. They may have had accomplices
Reuters has reported that two accused accomplices were arrested on Thursday. One of the alleged accomplices is a man, the other a woman. Both are 29 and were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
5. Adebolajo attended meetings of a banned Islamist group
Anjem Choudary, former leader of banned Islamist organization Al Muhajiroun, told The Independent that Adebolajo went by the name Mujahid and converted to Islam in 2003. Choudary said Adebolajo attended meetings for awhile but quit going two years ago.
The cleric, who told The Independent that he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but never preached violence, said he remembered Adebolajo attending meetings and lectures:
I wouldn't describe him as a member [of Al Muhajiroun]. There were lots of people who came to our activities who weren't necessarily members.
He was a pleasant, quiet guy. He was just a completely normal guy. He was interested in Islam, in memorizing the Koran. He disappeared about two years ago. I don't know what influences he has been under since then. [The Independent]
Later, Adebolajo would frequently be seen in Woolwich handing out Islamist literature.
6. Adebolajo's parents feared he was being radicalized
Adebolajo's parents moved the family from Romford into the city because they were afraid their son was being radicalized, according to the London Evening Standard.
A friend and former classmate from Marshalls Park school in Romford described Adebolajo as a regular teenage boy:
He was a Christian. A nice, normal guy. All his friends were white and used to go round to each other's houses all the time.
He started getting involved with Islam aged about 15 or 16, and that is why his parents moved him away out of the area. It is utterly shocking to see what he has done. It's unbelievable. [London Evening Standard]
Another neighbor — identified by The Guardian as Louise, 26 — said that in Adebolajo's later teen years he started carrying a knife around and hanging out with a gang who would steal people's phones.
This story was updated on Friday, May 24. It was originally published on Thursday, May 23.
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