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25 May, 2013 08:45

MI5 ‘tried to recruit’ Woolwich murder suspect

MI5 ‘tried to recruit’ Woolwich murder suspect

UK intelligence service MI5 approached Woolwich killing suspect Michael Adebolajo to offer him a job, a friend of the alleged murderer claimed in a BBC interview. Meanwhile police have arrested three more people suspected of plotting the brutal killing.

Abu Nusaybah, who claims to be a close friend of Adebolajo, was promptly arrested on BBC premises following an interview regarding the brutal killing in Woolwich on Wednesday. During the interview, Nusayaba stated that Adebolajo told him MI5 had “harassed” him for information on repeated occasions, and had even attempted to recruit him.

“But after him saying that he didn't know these individuals, what he said was they asked him if he would be interested in working for them. He was explicit in that he refused to work for them but he did confirm he didn't know the individuals,” Nusayaba said.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Friday that a 31-year-old man had been detained in London under the Terrorism Act. Police added the arrest was not directly related to Wednesday’s murder.

Meanwhile, British police announced on Saturday evening three more arrests in the notorious Woolwich case. Three men believed to be in their 20s were apprehended on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

A police forensics officer investigates a crime scene where one man was killed in Woolwich, southeast London May 22, 2013 (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)

MI5 acknowledged on Thursday that Michael Adebolajo had been known to them for eight years, prompting criticism that they could have taken steps to prevent the murder of 25-year-old Army Drummer Lee Rigby.

Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale are suspected of hacking Rigby to death in broad daylight on Wednesday. The two suspects were shot by police during their arrest, and are now in hospital awaiting police questioning. Footage of Adebolajo surfaced showing him brandishing a bloody cleaver, claiming the attack was an “eye-for-an-eye” act to avenge Muslims killed abroad by UK troops.

Nusayaba claimed that when he became acquainted with Adebolajo, the murder suspect did not exhibit any extremist Islamist tendencies. However, following a trip to Kenya last year where Adebolajo was allegedly taken into custody by the Kenyan military and was tortured and sexually abused, Nusayaba said he changed.

“He was not his bubbly self,” Nasayaba said, adding that he became less talkative following the trip.

A picture of victim Drummer Lee Rigby, of the British Army's 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is displayed with flowers left by mourners outside an army barracks near the scene of his killing in Woolwich, southeast London May 23, 2013 (Reuters / Toby Melville)

Relatively little is known about the two suspects who committed the atrocity in Woolwich on Wednesday, which was condemned in the UK press as “Baghdad-style violence.” It was confirmed that Adebolajo and Adebolawe are UK citizens from devout Christian families of Nigerian descent, who later converted to Islam.

He was also known to hand out radical Islamist leaflets that decried UK military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Police raided Adebolajo’s family home in Lincolnshire following the killing. The family reportedly moved away from London over concerns their son was becoming more radicalized.

On Sunday, UK Home Secretary Theresa May declared that around 500 police officers are now working on the investigation into the murder of the British soldier.

In a broader perspective, Prime Minister David Cameron is launching a new anti-terror task - the Tackling Extremism and Radicalization Task Force (TERFOR). The group is set to monitor trends in radicalization and the dissemination of "poisonous narratives", as well as radical preachers who target potential recruits, according to Downing Street.