Man, woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder in Woolwich attack

Police have arrested a man and a woman on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, Scotland Yard has announced. Both individuals, aged 29, have been taken into custody at a south London police station.

Follow RT’s live updates on the Woolwich attack

Detectives from the Counter Terrorism Command arrested a 29-year old woman at a residential address in south London on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, Scotland Yard said in a statement released on Thursday. A 29-year-old male was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder as a part of the police investigation into killing of a soldier identified as 25-year-old Lee Rigby.

Scotland Yard has yet to release the identity of either person.

In what was described as a “large, complex and fast-moving investigation which continues to develop,” the police said that search warrants have been executed at six residential addresses, and the searches are “ongoing.”

The alleged perpetrators of the attack,  identified  in the statement as a  22-year-old man and a 28-year-old man, were arrested on suspicion of murder after being “shot by police.”

“They remain in separate London hospitals and are both in a stable condition. Their injuries are not life threatening,” the statement continued.

One of the alleged assailants has been identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, UK media has reported. Adebolajo was said to come from a devout Christian family, but converted to Islam when he finished college.

Adebolajo and another assailant allegedly ran down an active-duty service member in a car and then got out and hacked him to death with knives and meat cleavers in southeast London on Wednesday.

One of the men involved in the attack and murder of a man believed to be a serving British soldier, gesturing as he speaks following the attack in Woolwich, London on May 22, 2013.(AFP Photo / THE SUN)

Footage of the incident shows one of the suspects addressing a camera brandishing a bloodied meat cleaver and calling on UK citizens “to remove your government.”

"We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” says the assailant. It is still unknown whether it is Adebolajo that appears in the video or the other suspect.

However, Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the banned Islamic group Al Muhajiroun, says he recognized Adebolajo as the suspect who could be seen brandishing a cleaver in the video which was widely circulated immediately following the grisly attack.

Choudary says he has not seen the man in two years, but he remembers the alleged attacker from meetings and lectures, saying he went by the name Mujahid. As far as Choudary “was aware,” the suspect was a “normal, practicing Muslim” who was concerned about Muslim affairs worldwide.

Founded in 1983, Al Muhajiroun was infamous for attempting to justify the 9/11 attacks and propagating Islamist rhetoric in Britain.

Adebolajo was also known to hand out radical leaflets which both promoted radical Islamic ideas and condemned UK military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan from a stall on Woolwich High Street.

His parents, whose home in Lincolnshire was reportedly raided by police today, are said to have moved Adebolajo away from East London over fears their son was becoming radicalized, a onetime friend told the Evening Standard.

“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,” a former friend told the daily.

“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.”

A Twitter user named Abu Nusaybah claimed to know Adebolajo and have “grown up with him.” He said Adebolajo had become a very strict Muslim and begun memorizing parts of the Koran to the letter.

‘They were hacking at this guy, chopping him like he was a piece of meat’

Witnesses described how the attackers ran over a British soldier and then set on him with butcher’s knives in broad daylight on a busy street. They then paraded around boasting of what they had done and asking people to take pictures of them, before charging at armed police, outnumbered and outgunned.

James Heneghan told LBC radio how he and his partner witnessed two black men attack one young man around 20 years old who was wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ T-shirt.

“They were hacking at this guy, chopping him, cutting him, like he was a piece of meat. Then they stood around waving knifes and a gun, asking people nearby to take pictures of them as if they wanted to be on TV or something,” he said.

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a mother of two and a Cub Scout leader from Cornwall, told the Daily Telegraph how she fearlessly confronted one of the two suspected killers after the attack had taken place. She said that when she first saw the victim lying on the street she thought it was an accident, but then realized he was dead when she could not feel a pulse.

“When I went up to 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 knifes, and he said ‘move off the body.’”

Police forensics officers investigate a crime scene where one man was killed in Woolwich, southeast London May 22, 2013.(Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)

Ingrid explained that she thought she should start talking to him before he killed anyone else:

“I thought these people usually have a message so I said ‘What do you want?’”“I asked him if he had done it and he said ‘Yes,’ and I said ‘Why?’ and he said because he [the victim] has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries,” she said. He then told her that the dead man was a British soldier, to which Ingrid replied “Really?”

She then bravely said, “Right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose, what would you like to do?” The man responded that he wanted “to stay and fight.”

Heneghan then continued, recounting what happened after armed police arrived at the scene: “The man with the beanie hat, the tall guy, he charged at the police vehicle. In my opinion they were waiting for the police to arrive to be shot by the police.”

Julie Wilders, who lives near the scene, told LBC radio that as soon the police arrived, “He ran towards the police before they could even get out of the car, and it looked like the other one was going to lift the gun up.”

Twitter user @Boyadee wrote that a female officer then took out one of the men “like Robocop.”

‘Two suspects known to British security services’

It was revealed on Thursday that both of the alleged assailants were part of earlier investigations carried out by MI5 – Britain’s internal security service. However, intelligence services assessed that neither suspect posed a threat to life, Sky News reports.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Intelligence and Security Committee would carry out a full probe to determine whether or not there were any failings in the run-up to the attack. Following reports the two suspects had been part of a previous probe, Cameron noted the media reports, but said he was unwilling to comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.

Cameron add  that “after an event like this it is natural that questions will be asked about what additional steps can be taken to keep us safe." The prime minister had earlier decried the “unjustifiable” Woolwich killing as an attack on the British way of life and a betrayal of Islam. In a public address, Cameron vowed Britain would not back down in the face of extremism.

The prime minister said it was essential that Britain stood united against extremism, and that the best way to combat terrorism “is to go about our normal lives.”

Britian's prime Minister David Cameron addresses media representatives at 10 Downing Street in London on May 23, 2013.(AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

The Muslim Council of Britain decried the attack as “truly barbaric,” and said it will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom.

“We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail,” they said.

The two suspects were injured by police fire when they were apprehended, and have spent the night in separate hospitals; one is reportedly in serious condition. They will remain in custody pending questioning.

The UK government has stepped up security in the capital following the murder of the soldier, who identity has not been revealed. The Metropolitan Police have deployed an extra 1,200 officers to patrol the streets and places of worship in a bid to reassure local communities.

The Boston connection

OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier likened the attack in London to the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people in April. He told RT that the attacks in London and Boston are a “new trend and a new threat that the international community is facing, and in fact in the OSCE we are now re-discussing security.”

“This calls for new kind of cooperation, new kind of strategy for the international community,” he added.
The Tsarnaev brothers, the suspected perpetrators of the Boston bombings, have not yet been linked to any larger terrorist organization and are believed to have acted independently. Both brothers had lived in the US for a number of years before carrying out the attack, which has come to be known as an act of home-grown terrorism.

While both attacks represent instances of isolated acts of domestic terror, the specific method used to carry out the south London attack has caused it to resonate on a level not generated by the Boston bombings, William Jacobson, a clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, told RT.

“Obviously Boston caused a lot of injuries that were every bit as gruesome, but Boston was a more ‘traditional sort of attack’ with bombs, etc. The Boston bombers certainly had enough hatred in them [to carry out the attack]. They resorted to the more traditional, standoffish sort of terror," Jacobson said.

I think of [the journalist] Daniel Pearl being beheaded on video, I think of some of the other scenes we’ve seen in Syria. This really takes it to an entirely different level.”

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama offered his support to the UK, saying: "The United States stands resolute with the United Kingdom, our ally and friend, against violent extremism and terror."

"There can be absolutely no justification for such acts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim, the police and security services responding to this horrific act and the communities they serve, and the British people."