Exiled Islamist praises 'brave' killing of soldier in London
A Syrian-born Islamist cleric who taught one of the men accused of hacking to death an off-duty British soldier on a London street praised the attack for its "courage" and said Muslims would see it as a strike on a military target.
In an interview in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, where he has lived since being banished from Britain in 2005, Omar Bakri Mohammed, founder of banned British Islamist group Al Muhajiroun, said he knew suspect Michael Adebolajo from his lectures a decade ago.
"When I saw the footage I recognised the face immediately," Bakri said. "I used to know him. A quiet man, very shy, asking lots of questions about Islam."
"What surprised me [is] the quiet man, the man who is very shy, decided to carry out an attack against a British soldier in the middle of the day in the middle of a street in the UK. In east London. It's incredible.
"When I saw that, honestly I was very surprised - standing firm, courageous, brave. Not running away. Rather, he said why he carried [it out] and he wanted the whole world to hear it."
The attack has been vociferously condemned by Muslim organisations across Britain.
Adebolajo, 28, a British-born convert from a Christian Nigerian immigrant family, went by the nickname Mujahid (holy warrior) after taking up Islam as a teenager in a suburb on the northeast outskirts of London.
He and a second knife-wielding attacker, Nigerian-born British citizen Michael Adebowale, 22, are in hospital after being shot by police during their arrest. They have yet to be charged. Police have also arrested another man and a woman on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Bakri said British authorities were inviting retaliation by targeting Muslims with anti-terrorist legislation and police raids.
"If you breach the covenant of security with Muslims, you are digging your grave," he said. "I cannot condemn what Michael did. I don't see it as a crime as far as Islam is concerned."
He said radical Islam was winning the bulk of converts in Britain and scoffed at the "moderate chocolate" Muslims who he said are "always melting the way the West wants them to be - they never stand for what they believe".
"They are just a waste of space," he said.