Blame game: MI5 faces probe over Woolwich killing

UK security services will be investigated after it was found that MI5 knew of both suspects in the Woolwich murder for eight years. Accusations of blame have been rife following the killing, with many blaming UK foreign policy as the root of the tragedy.

Security services have been put to questioning after it was found that the two suspected Woolwich murderers had been flagged by MI5 for eight years. In response to the discovery, a House of Commons inquiry will be launched into the British security services’ handling of the murder.

However, security officials maintain that despite having a record of the two suspects, the attack would have been near impossible to prevent. Intelligence expert Glenn Montravor  said that the suspects – Mr. Adebolajo, 28, and Mr Adebowale, 22 – likely had no intention to commit such a crime, and that their time and target was chosen at random.

“Even though our security services were aware of these perpetrators, it is almost impossible to predict when people suddenly, almost by happenstance, choose the time and place, and this poor unfortunate soldier was the target,” Montravor told RT.

The two suspects were shot by police after hacking to death Army Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, in broad daylight on Wednesday in the Woolwich area of East London. They are currently in separate hospitals under police surveillance and awaiting questioning.

An amateur video obtained by the Sun newspaper shows the police gunning down one of the suspects who allegedly charged at the officers' car when they arrived at the scene of the crime. 

A framed photograph of Drummer Lee Rigby lies amongst floral tributes outside Woolwich Barracks in London on May 23, 2013, a day after the murder of a British soldier nearby (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

“These sort of individualistic, lone-wolf style attacks, that don’t require great planning, don’t require some sort of specialist equipment, will become one of the main ways that people make a protest,” said Annie Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer.

The Metropolitan Police announced Friday that a further 29-year-old woman and a 31-year-old woman arrested as part of the murder investigation have been released without charge. A 29-year-old man arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder remains in custody.

It was found that one of the aggressors in the attack was a Muslim convert. Michael Adebolajo came to Islam later in life upon leaving university when he joined a now-banned Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun. He also took the new name Mujaahid – meaning the one who engages in Jihad. Adebolajo was an active member of the group and attended regular meetings and demonstrations.

Speculation has been rampant as to what drove the suspects to commit the murder – what the two men called an “eye-for-an-eye” act to avenge Muslims killed abroad by UK troops. Many have suggested that the attack was blowback against British participation in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

“If you listen to the words of the attackers themselves, it’s clear they wished to bring the war they saw on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul onto the streets of London,” Carl Miller, a research director from UK think tank Demos told RT.

London Mayor Boris Johnson was quick to quash claims that the attacks were driven by extreme Islam or UK foreign policy. However, former Mayor Ken Livingstone accused Johnson of barefaced lying: “They are lying. They are completely complicit with the US policy just like Tony Blair was with George Bush. They aren’t prepared to stand up and say, well we think this strategy has been a disaster,” he told RT.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (C) arrives at a police cordon in Woolwich, London on May 23, 2013, at the site of the murder of a soldier by two suspected Islamists (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

‘We’re inspiring them’

The UK’s military presence abroad is inspiring extremist attacks in Great Britain, an anonymous British solider told RT’s Sara Firth.

“But also the argument’s to be made because we’re out there, we’re inspiring them or motivating them,” he told RT. “Our presence out there is sort of motivating the cells that are back in the UK to operate more and carry out more attacks.”

UK Muslim groups have decried the attack as an abomination, and condemned extremism. Thousands of Ahmadiyya Muslims are expected to gather in London on Friday to offer prayers to Drummer Rigby.

But the cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who knew one of the suspects personally, has said while being filmed secretly by the Independent, that Abebolajo is a “hero” for what he has done and that his actions were “justified” under Islam.

“I saw the film and we could see that he [the suspect] was being very courageous. Under Islam this can be justified, he was not targeting civilians; he was taking on a military man in an operation. To people around here [in the Middle East] he is a hero for what he has done,” Muhammed told the Independent from Lebanon.

Omar Bakri Mohammed was banned from Britain over extremist activities and his alleged links to al-Qaida.

While in the UK, Michael Abebolajo, regularly attended meetings with the Mohammed in London, before he converted to Islam and became known as Abdullah.