A British citizen of Nigerian descent who became obsessed with Islamic fundamentalism as a teenager has been identified as one of two men allegedly responsible for Wednesday’s deadly Woolwich knife attack.
BBC News reports that police have raided the home of Michael Adebolajo, a British citizen originally from Nigeria. Adebolajo is believed to be one of the two men who hacked a British soldier to death on Wednesday using hatchets and knives.
Adebolajo and a second, unidentified man were both placed under arrest in a nearby hospital after being shot by police, ABC News reports. Both suspects are undergoing interrogation, but it is not yet clear if they are cooperating with authorities.
In an interview with ABC News, Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the banned Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, confirmed Adebolajo’s identity. According to Choudary, Adebolajo was a Christian until 2003, when he converted to Islam and changed his name to Mujahid, meaning one who wages jihad.
Although Adebolajo was never a member of Al Muhajiroun, Choudhary claims that he became familiar with the alleged killer when he attended the group’s rallies from 2005 to 2011, ABC News reports. After that, Adebolajo stopped attending the rallies.
Although Choudhary has not talked to him since 2011, he told ABC News there was never any indication that Adebolajo was a violent man or held any hatred for British soldiers. "He was a very peaceful man," Choudary told ABC News. "Never saw any kind of violent streak in him. Very quiet, timid man, in fact."
Despite Choudhary’s statements, Adebolajo’s former classmates told the London Evening Standard that the attacker, originally a Christian, became obsessed with Islamic fundamentalism around the age of 15 or 16. According to the classmates, his behavior became so worrisome that his Nigerian parents sent him away from Romford to London to prevent him from being radicalized by local Islamic elements, the Evening Standard reports.
After the attack, Adebolajo allegedly encouraged eyewitnesses to interview him with their cellphone camera. The Nigerian man spoke to one witness while holding the infamous hatchet and knife in his bloodstained hands, using rhetoric similar to what can be heard in terrorist video declarations.
“We must fight them as they fight us: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our lands, our women have to see the same,” Adebolajo said in a video obtained exclusively by British outlet ITV News. “You people will never be safe.”
“Remove your governments. They don’t care about you,” Adebolajo continued. “Do you think [British Prime Minister] David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you.”
Adebajalo then walks across the street to another man, presumably the second suspect, who can be seen holding a gun and a knife of his own. The body of the deceased soldier, whom witnesses claimed was wearing a “Help For Heroes” shirt, lies sprawled in the background.
Wednesday’s deadly attack occurred just a few hundred feet from the Woolwich army barracks in London. Local authorities have increased security throughout the city, ABC News reports. The victim of the attack has yet to be identified.
"This was not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam," Prime Minister Cameron told reporters after the assault. "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly barbaric act."