LONDON (AP) — The slaying of a British soldier in southeast London cast a spotlight on radical preachers that influenced Michael Adebolajo, the attacker seen in videos with bloody hands holding a butcher knife. It also raised questions about the reach of the terrorist group al-Shabab, after a British government official said one of the two men tried to go to Somalia to train or fight with the group. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the police investigation.
Here’s a look at the preachers and al-Shabab.
OMAR BAKRI MUHAMMED
Spiritual leader and founder of the group al-Muhajiroun. The group catapulted to notoriety after the Sept. 11 attacks by organizing an event to celebrate the airplane hijackers. Bakri, who now lives in Lebanon, had been one of the most aggressive voices of radical Islam in Britain. Members of the cell behind the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings also had links to the group.
The government banned al-Muhajiroun after the July 7 attacks in which four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters, but it has re-formed under new names — such as the Saved Sect or al-Gurabaa, which have also been banned. He is barred from returning to Britain. Bakri says the man depicted in the startling video that emerged after the death of British serviceman Lee Rigby was named Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam. Bakri recalled Adebolajo was a shy person eager to learn about Islam.
The former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, an Islamist group notorious for glorifying al-Qaeda and tied to terror plots at home and abroad. Choudary has in the past described the 9/11 hijackers on the United States as the “Magnificent 19.” He also featured prominently in fiery protests against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He is the manager of the Sharia Court in Britain. Sharia is Muslim law as derived from the Quran. Choudary says Adebolajo took part in several demonstrations by the group in London.
Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group in Somalia. Al-Shabab boasts several hundred foreign fighters, including those from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It has also recruited fighters from Somali communities in the United States and Europe. Al-Shabab once controlled almost all of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, but African Union and Somali forces pushed the militants out of the city in 2011.
British officials have not said which of the two suspects attempted to link up with the group.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.