The first Islamist terrorists to carry out their plan to murder on British soil without killing themselves in the process have been convicted of mutilating and attempting to behead a soldier, as the prime minister vowed to step up efforts to defeat the al-Qaida ideology of violence.
British-born Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale (Adebolajo has asked to be known as Mujahid Abu Hamza in court, and Adebowale has asked to be called Ismail Ibn Abdullah) were convicted of murdering Lee Rigby last May, after scouring an area around the Woolwich barracks hunting for a soldier to kill. One was set on the path to murder by a deluded belief that 9/11 was a Western conspiracy. The other told of his disgust at watching television in 2003 as Western missiles rained down on Baghdad in the battle to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The savagery of the murder, in which Rigby, 25, was repeatedly stabbed and hacked at the neck by a cleaver, shattered community relations when mosques were attacked. It was the first murderous attack in Britain by those motivated by the al-Qaida ideology of violence since the 7 July 2005 bombings of London’s transport system by four suicide bombers.
While convicting them of murder, the jury accepted their defence to a charge of attempting to murder armed officers who turned up to arrest them. Adebolajo and Adebowale claimed they charged at the armed officers clutching a machete and unloaded gun, not because they wanted to kill them but because they wanted to be shot dead and achieve martyrdom. The brother of one of the men convicted on Thursday of murdering Lee Rigby has told the Guardian that he believes the killing of the soldier in the street was justified by their Islamic faith. In remarks that a majority of British Muslims would regard as an extremist mutation of their religion, Jeremiah Adebolajo claimed his brother Michael had sought to “please Allah by fighting in his cause” in the barbarous attack in Woolwich, south London.
Witness Amanda Donnelly Martin was passed a warped handwritten note by one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s murderers. Ms Donnelly Martin was at the soldier’s side, attempting to comfort him as he lay in the road when Michael Adebolajo handed her the note. It appears to be an attempt at explaining or justifying the barbaric murder – urging the removal of “so-called politicians” and making bizarre references to “international armed robbery” and “bewitching tongues”.
In full it read:
“To my beloved children, know that to fight Allah’s enemies is an obligation. The proofs of which are so numerous that but a handful of any of them cuts out the bewitching tongues of the Munafiqeen (hypocrites). Do not spend your days in endless dispute with the cowardly and foolish, if it means it will delay you meeting Allah’s enemies on the battle field. Sometimes the cowardly and foolish could be those dearest to you so be prepared to turn away from them. When you set out on this path do not look left or right. Seek Shaheed Ala oh my sons, so that you might be raised together and if it is Allah’s decree that you’re not to be in the hearts of green birds then be ready for to enter the university of Joosuf Sijn (sic) be patient there and be firm there and Inshallah you will meet your lord with him pleased with you. Verily Allah is with those who are patient. If I live beyond this day and you find me talking other than this then know that perhaps Allah has left me to stray. If you find yourself curious as to why carnage is reaching your own towns then know it’s simply retaliation for your oppression in our towns. Many of your people are aristocrats that directly benefit from invasion of our lands without material loss. Whereas the average Joe Bloggs working class man loses his sons when they’re killed by our brothers, when the heat of battle reaches your local street it’s unlikely that any of your so-called politicians will be at risk or caught in crossfire so I suggest you remove them. Remove them and replace them with who will secure your safety by immediate withdrawal from the affairs of Muslims. Muslims will trade with you on fair terms but understand that the days of your international armed robbery is (sic) drawing to a close. To humble yourselves willingly is better for you. May Allah guide your nation to the truth.“
Michael Adebolajo “slayed” the soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight in an attack meant to wreak carnage , a jury has been told. The jury went out shortly after 11am yesterday, returning to deliver unanimous verdicts which were greeted by sobs. Rigby’s stepfather, Ian, wiped away tears and put his arm around the soldier’s mother, Lyn, who was crying.
The mother of Michael Adebowale, one of the two men convicted of hacking soldier Lee Rigby to death has blamed “the evil ones” of Islam for luring her son into a world of fanaticism. Juliet Adebowale also spoke of her sorrow for the fusilier’s family, saying: “That poor, poor family have lost a son – but so have I”. His brother’s defence contrasts with the stance taken by their parents – of Nigerian Christian heritage – who have condemned their son’s attack. Jeremiah said he was close to his brother, and that their upbringing in Romford had not been deprived and there was a strong family focus on education. He dismissed claims Michael Adebolajo might have had a troubled family life.
They were “polite, nice guys” from strict Christian families. Michael Adebolajo’s passions were “music and football and girls”. Michael Adebowale was a “lovable, quiet boy” who enjoyed cooking Jamie Oliver recipes. Yet, during their teens, these two east London boys descended into a life of petty street crime and drugs, before converting to Islamic extremism which drove them to commit the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.
Jeremiah also sought to argue that the brutal murder of a young man was motivated by anger at western foreign policy – but dismissed the possibility that MI5 could be blamed because the security service had repeatedly tried to recruit his brother as an informant. The attack raised questions for MI5 and police, who had known of the men for eight years. Adebolajo has told those who have seen him since his arrest that repeated alleged attempts by MI5 to turn him into an informant had not played a part in the murder, which he blames purely on anger at western foreign policy. In 2010 Adebolajo had been arrested in Kenya, a gateway to terrorist areas in Somalia and it was claimed he was ill-treated with British complicity.
In the interview, Jeremiah – who says he was converted to Islam by Michael – adopted many of the views his brother expressed when he gave evidence at the Old Bailey. Asked if he was proud of his brother, Jeremiah said: “In that he is a Muslim and that he sought to please Allah by fighting in his cause and dying in his cause, then to this extent yes.”
Interviewed by the Guardian before the jury returned its guilty verdict on Michael, Jeremiah said he loved his brother more than he did a year ago, despite the Woolwich events. Counterterrorism officials continue to assess 2,000 individuals in the UK as posing a terrorist threat, a number that they say has remained roughly constant since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Adebolajo became more extreme and took part in numerous Islamist protests in London. He also fathered six children, one born just four days before Mr Rigby’s murder. In 2006 he was arrested during a violent demonstration outside the Old Bailey, where fellow fanatics were on trial accused of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred following the publication of a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. In 2007 he was filmed by the BBC protesting outside Paddington Green police station after the arrest of another fanatic. He was holding a placard which complained of a “Crusade Against Muslims”. In 2008 he spent three months in custody after assaulting a police officer. The following year a video showed him ranting on a platform in front of young Muslims outside north London mosque. He told them: “Do not be scared of the filthy kuffar [non-believers]. They are pigs.”
Jeremiah argued that his brother’s act of murder was a “military strike” by a “soldier”, and in keeping with the teachings of the Qur’an. It is a claim British Muslims dispute, but he mocked them too, saying Muslims in the rest of the world regard Britain as having “blood on its hands”. He claimed his brother had been forcibly brought back to Britain from Kenya in 2010 after he tried to reach areas of Somalia controlled by extremist groups affiliated to the al-Qaida ideology. Jeremiah said: “My brother left to Kenya, to go and live in Somalia under the sharia. This was his choice. What the British government did is brought him back.”
The security services face questions over whether they underestimated the threat posed. The intelligence and security committee is investigating how much MI5 knew of the men’s activities. The men are believed to have acted alone. Adebolajo told jurors that he was a “soldier of Allah” and was obliged to obey the command of Allah. He described how he held the soldier’s hair as he hacked at his neck in a motion described by one witness as like a “butcher attacking a joint of meat”. Adebowale did not testify in his own defence and his police interviews were not heard by the court. Adebolajo’s barrister, David Gottlieb, began his closing speech by complaining that his client had been demonised as a “total monster” by the press and politicians. “I suggest to you this background of religion, race, class and politics has been a toxic mix and when you add in the word terrorism, as we have in this case, it made it impossible for rational people to think straight,” he told the jury.
Until recently Woolwich and nearby Plumstead hosted extreme Islamist preachers, such as Omar Bakri Mohammed, the self-styled sheikh responsible for Adebowale’s conversion to Islam, and Anjem Choudary, the founder of Al Muhajiroun who once counted Adebolajo in his following. The crossroads where Drummer Rigby was slain is also a five-minute drive from HMP Belmarsh, the high-security prison where many of Britain’s most committed Islamist terrorists are housed.
Killing to make a political point, to frighten the public and put pressure on the government of the day or as an expression of anger is murder and remains murder whether the government is a good one, a bad one or a dreadful one. What happened was designed to tear apart the oneness of Woolwich. It didn’t happen – people were brought closer, regardless of race or creed. And the reason that happened was because of what pre-existed this attack. People were disconcerted by what might happen afterwards but we had the links and the structures in place to show unity between Muslims, Christians, Sikhs – everybody. The community can remember [Lee Rigby] but it can also move on. Work by police and community leaders has indeed outwardly smoothed the troubled waters created by the murder. Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Muslim communities then, as now, were united in their condemnation of this crime. This was a dishonourable act and no cause justifies cold-blooded murder.”
Mr Justice Sweeney, the trial judge, said he would pass sentence after a key ruling by the court of appeal in January on the use of whole-life terms. He is considering sentencing the men to die in jail. In two recent cases he rejected crown demands for whole-life sentences, including a terrorist case where a Muslim man was murdered by a Ukrainian man who also staged a bombing campaign, who received a minimum term of 40 years.