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British Authorities Characterize Brutal Slaying of Soldier as Terrorism

May 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: British investigators continue the search for answers after the brutal murder of a soldier yesterday. The daytime attack took place in the Woolwich area of South London; 25-year-old Lee Rigby was hacked to death by two men armed with knives. The attackers stayed at the scene, one even speaking to a bystander filming the aftermath.

A warning: The images are graphic. The video shows the man holding two knives, his hands covered in blood.

After that, police arrived and shot the men, who were then taken to a hospital.

We begin with a report from Lucy Manning of Independent Television News.

LUCY MANNING, Independent Television News: To those leaving flowers at the barracks, he was the unknown soldier. But drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, is the soldier whose death has shocked the country.

The 25-year-old from Manchester, known as “Riggers,” witty, cheeky, humorous, and a loving father to his son, Jack, just two years old, a British soldier killed not in war, but at home.

DEFENSE SECRETARY PHILIP HAMMOND, Britain: This was a senseless murder of a soldier who served the army faithfully in a variety of roles, including operational tours in Afghanistan. And our thoughts today are with his family and loved ones who are trying to come to terms with this terrible loss.

LUCY MANNING: We also learned the name of one of the men suspected of killing him. Michael Adebolajo, born in Britain with a Nigerian background, he studied at Greenwich University, the 28-year-old, a convert to Islam.

MICHAEL ADEBOLAJO, Suspect: We must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

LUCY MANNING: His views known now, but sources confirm both suspects were already known to the security services.

Although sources say both the suspects’ names did feature in security service investigations, they say there was no assessment they were planning an attack, and many names do come before the security services in their investigations.

There will be questions for the police and security services. One suspect, sources say, was stopped last year trying to go to Somalia. But, for now, this is all about the investigation into drummer Rigby’s death. So the police searched houses across the country linked to the suspects, a flat in Greenwich where he’d studied. In Lincoln, believed to be the home of Michael Adebolajo’s father, the police arrived, his parents said to be devout Christians — and in Romford, where he grew up and went to school.

At the Woolwich barracks, the flag at half-mast, the prime minister arrived to meet the soldiers who said drummer Rigby was at the heart of the platoon, always with a smile on his face.

Earlier, at Downing Street, a resolute prime minister insisted we will never give in to terror.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, Britain: On our televisions last night, and in our newspapers this morning, we have all seen images that are deeply shocking. The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger.

LUCY MANNING: Lee Rigby was a drummer, a man who entertained with music, a true warrior who came home from Afghanistan, but met his death on the streets of the country that he served.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Prime Minister Cameron singled out a bystander, 48-year-old Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, for her bravery. The French-born former teacher came face-to-face with one of the suspects just moments after yesterday’s attack.

She told ITN’s Mary Nightingale he had a revolver and knives.

INGRID LOYAU-KENNETT, Eyewitness: I looked at him and I saw he was — had a revolver and a butcher’s knife and a butcher’s hatchet, something you say when you cut the bones out. So, I said, OK, what happened?

MARY NIGHTINGALE, Independent Television News: But you were speaking directly to him at this point?

INGRID LOYAU-KENNETT: Oh yes. I said, OK, what happened? He said, “He’s a British soldier. He killed people in Muslim lands.”

MARY NIGHTINGALE: I can imagine that some people would have thought it was more sensible to keep back.

INGRID LOYAU-KENNETT: What for, to have them being upset and rushing somebody?

Do you know, my thing is the better defense is the attack. So, if you want to keep things calm, go first. Do things yourself first. Don’t wait for something to happen, because you lose control at the — at that moment.