Lee Rigby Murder: Were His Assailants "Lone Wolves" Or Affiliated With Nigerian Terrorists?
Two British men of Nigerian descent hacked a soldier to death on a busy London street on Wednesday before delivering a vengeful rant about wars in Muslim countries to bystanders.
One of the assailants, 28-year-old Londoner Michael Adebolajo, a British-born convert to radical Islam, calmly justified the killing on camera as he stood by the body holding a knife and meat cleaver with hands covered in blood.
"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," Adebolajo said in a local accent in a dramatic clip filmed by a bystander. "This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Britain's Defense Ministry identified the victim as 25-year-old Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Segment of Fusiliers. Lee was described by his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jim Taylor, as "a real character" and "true warrior."
Rigby, who served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany, and Cyprus, was wearing the shirt of Help for Heroes, a charity that helps British service members injured in combat at the time of the attack, according to the Washington Post.
The two men were known to security services as well, a source close to the investigation said on Thursday.
Adebolajo had been known to authorities for handing out radical Islamist pamphlets and was known to fellow Muslims as Mujahid, which means "warrior," according to Anjem Choudry, one of Britain's Islamist clerics.
Another another source close to the inquiry said the local backgrounds of the suspects in a multicultural metropolis paired with the simplicity of the attack made prevention difficult.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a diplomatic trip to Paris, held an emergency meeting of his intelligence chiefs to assess what he called a "terrorist" attack.
"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," Cameron said. "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act."
Although officials have not confirmed any links between the killers and Nigerian terrorist groups, the incident has raised fears of "lone wolves" in the West who may or may not have direct contact with Al-Qaeda members.
The Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009 was carried out by Nigerian national Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, who famously tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane with plastic explosives hidden in his underwear.
Officials are investigating whether the London attackers were directly influenced by terrorist organizations in their home country. Plagued by Islamic terror groups for years, Nigeria has faced numerous terrorist operations since the mass attacks in northern Nigeria in 2010. The most prominent group, Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is a sin," has launched a series of attacks in recent years on the government, Western values of freedom and democracy, and Christian targets in Nigeria. Blamed for nearly 800 killings in the past year, the jihadist organization has "scant hierarchical leadership and is a loose affiliation of jihadists, without one dominant ruler," according to the Telegraph.
Whether the London attackers were connected to large terrorist groups in Nigeria or not, the threat of "lone wolf" terrorists 'inspired' by these organizations in the West is an rising challenge for government security and intelligence officials.
In the London attack, 48-year-old Ingrid Layou-Kennett approached one of the assailants just after the attack in London and tried to engage Adebolajo in a conversation.
"I asked him if he did it and he said yes, and I said why?," said Layou-Kennet, "And he said because [the victim] has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries."