A British soldier was killed Wednesday after he stepped off the Woolwich army barracks in southeast London. Horrified spectators looked on as two men reportedly attacked the soldier, hitting him with a car and then using a meat cleaver and knives to stab and cut him. During their attack, the men reportedly claimed to be acting in the interests of Islam, seeking revenge for British military action in Muslim countries.
Here’s what is known:
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attacks Thursday. In a speech outside 10 Downing Street after an emergency meeting, Cameron said: “What happened in Woolwich yesterday has sickened us all. The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together, make us stronger.” He went on to say that the attack was “a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country.”
The victim has been identified as 25-year-old Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
“An extremely popular and witty soldier, Drummer Rigby was a larger than life personality within the Corps of Drums and was well known, liked and respected across the Second Fusiliers,” the Ministry of Defence said in a public statement.
One suspect has been named by The Guardian and other London news outlets as Michael Olumide Adebolajo. Of the two suspects initially arrested, both are thought to be British-born and of Nigerian ethnicity, reports The Guardian. Police are also reportedly looking into potential links between the suspects and the outlawed Muslim extremist group Al-Muhajiroun. Reuters reports that Adebolajo is 28 and The Telegraph says he attended Greenwich University from 2001 to 2003. Reports also say that both were converts to Islam. The suspects were shot by police and remain under police custody in hospital.
Two more arrests have been made since the earlier arrests, The Guardian reported later Thursday, bringing the total number to four: three men, aged 29, 22 and 28, and a 29-year-old woman.
In a video filmed by an onlooker during the attack, one of the suspects says: “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. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” And: “I apologize that women had to witness that, but in our lands our women have to see the same thing. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a 48-year-old cub pack leader and mother of two, is being heralded as a hero after she attempted to offer first aid to the victim and then spoke with the attackers, asking one of the men to hand over his knife. She also reportedly told the men: “You’re going to lose, it is only you versus many.” Cameron mentioned Loyau-Kennett by name in his speech. Here, Loyau-Kennett recalls her ordeal in The Guardian.
Police took a reported 20 minutes to arrive at the scene with an armed squad, something that is being questioned. However, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said the first officers were there within nine minutes, with more armed police there within 14 minutes of the initial emergency call.
The attack has prompted a response from the English Defence League (EDL), a far-right anti-Muslim group lead by Tommy Robinson. The group clashed with police in Woolwich Wednesday night during a protest.