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Though U.K. No Stranger to Terrorism, London Killing Seen as New Style of Attack

May 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Two British men of Nigerian descent have been arrested for hacking to death British soldier Lee Rigby. Judy Woodruff talks with Vikram Dodd, senior reporter at The Guardian in London, about what is known about the 22-year-old and 28-year-old suspects and whether any one else is involved.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we come back to the hacking death yesterday of a British soldier.

I’m joined now by Vikram Dodd. He’s a senior reporter at The Guardian in London.

Welcome to the NewsHour.

First of all, what is known about the two men behind this? They’re both British citizens?

VIKRAM DODD, The Guardian: Good evening.

What’s known is not a lot about one of them, the person we suspect is 22 years old. The 28-year-old, the one you see in the dramatic video, the one brandishing the knives and justifying the murder or the attack as a strike against the West, we know a lot more about him. We have a name.

We know that he was born a Christian to parents of Nigerian heritage. We know that his mother was concerned about him getting into trouble with a gang and so moved the family out of London into a rural area of England. We know he went — came back to London. We know that he studied. We know that he was — became a convert to Islam in about 2003.

We know he was tutored by an extremist cleric, so extreme that he was banned from the United Kingdom. And we know there are reports that he was seen in recent handing out what would be considered extremist literature, pretty close to the area where the attack was carried out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was one report of a woman who lived in the neighborhood who said that she thought she had seen the two of them out in the street preaching or handing out literature.

I see that they are being charged with conspiracy, but, clearly, there’s something very odd about the fact that they stayed around after this happened, they talked to bystanders. What are authorities saying about that?

VIKRAM DODD: What authorities are saying about that is not a lot.

Compared to where you work, your authorities are amazingly open compared to ours. What’s — I can tell you there’s been some developments in the last few hours. What has happened is that the two suspected attackers were arrested at the scene, and then this evening, two more people have been arrested. A man and a woman have been arrested, and they are being — on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.

So, part of the original thinking was that maybe it was just these two people who carried it out. At the moment, there is a suspicion which police are trying to bottom out, which is that a couple more people may have been involved.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any — how much experience has Britain, has London had in the last — in the recent period with domestic terrorism, of anything that could be described as something like this?

VIKRAM DODD: Well, this is the first terrorist attack since July 7th, 2005, to claim a life.

Over here, we’re extraordinarily used to terrorism. It used to be from an Irish origin, from the IRA, and then there have been multiple, 20 and counting, attempted plots since you suffered the 9/11 attacks. And almost straight after that, there started to be plots which were disrupted. There’s been a few which got all the way through the net and only failed because the bombs weren’t properly constructed.

But this is a very, very new style of attack, certainly in the United Kingdom, I think in the United States as well, in which the West has experienced. Somebody described it as a sort of Baghdad-style attack of the alleged terrorists, not using explosives, but using something as easily available as knives to select a victim.

In fact, one casualty which has a sort of almost a titanic significant, there has been repeated attempts and repeated interest by al-Qaida-inspired terrorists to try and attack a British soldier on British toil soil and kill him. There was a previous plot in 2007, I think, to kidnap and behead on a video, that particular episode, which was disrupted.

But it’s a new style of attack, I think, in the West.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Vikram Dodd, the authorities using the word terrorists, terrorism in connection with this?

VIKRAM DODD: They certainly are. I think partly it’s the — it’s that video of the man talking in rhetoric which you can absolutely see the linkages back to al-Qaida-inspired rhetoric, you know, until you leave our lands.

There’s a reference to the bin Laden foreign land speech, which is one of bin Laden’s most famous/important speeches. That, I think, at this stage is what has made them treat this as if it was a terrorist incident. We have had the emergency crisis committee over here meeting.

The investigation is at an early stage, but at this moment, they’re treating it as a terrorist attack.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, gruesome, gruesome images.

Vikram Dodd, we thank you very much for talking with us.

VIKRAM DODD: Thank you.