|“||The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. And this British soldier is one... By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone.||”|
— Michael Adebolajo
Adebolajo was born sometime in 1985 to a Christian family. Very little is known about his early life, other than he attended Marshall Parks School and studied sociology at the University of Greenwich. In 2003, he converted to Islam and became involved with al-Muhajiroun, an outlawed Islamist group active in Great Britain. Three years later, Adebolajo was arrested outside the Old Bailey while protesting the trial of Mizanur Rahman, a British Islamic activist who would later be sentenced to four years in prison on 2007 for solicitation to murder. Adebolajo was also present at a 2009 demonstration against anti-Muslim organizations. In 2010, he and five others were arrested in Kenya and later deported back to the U.K., where he received consular assistance. There were suspicions from Kenya's anti-terrorism unit that Adebolajo and the others were intending to train with a Kenyan Islamist militant group called al-Shabaab.
Virtually nothing is known about Adebowale's life prior to the attack, other than he was born to a probation officer and a member of the Nigerian High Commission. Like Adebolajo, he was born to a Christian family and came to attend the University of Greenwich. There, he apparently met Adebolajo, whom he would be partnered with during the attack in Woolwich.
Murder, Trial and IncarcerationThe extent of Adebolajo and Adebowale's planning of the attack has never been specified in any sources detailing them. On May 22, 2013, they waited for 25-year-old Lee Rigby, a drummer and machine-gunner for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers's 2nd Battalion, to arrive at Wellington Street in the London district of Woolwich while returning from his workplace at the Tower of London. They were armed with knives, a meat cleaver, and a revolver. Shortly before 2:20 p.m., he arrived and crossed the street to head for a shop, to which Adebolajo and Adebowale drove a Vauxhall Tigra sports car towards him at high speeds, striking Rigby and knocking him to the pavement. The two then got out of the car and attacked him with the knives and meat cleaver before trying to decapitate him, all the while screaming, "Allāhu Akbar!" Apparently unsuccessful, Adebolajo and Adebowale were then repelled by bystanders, some of which stood over Rigby's body defensively. At least one bystander also directly confronted the attackers. Some also recorded the immediate aftermath of the attack, which Adebolajo and Adebowale took as an opportunity to justify their actions, claiming that they attacked Rigby, a British soldier, for "kill[ing] Muslims in Iraq and in Afghanistan". Adebolajo also handed a two-page, explanatory handwritten letter for police to a bystander, and both also requested bystanders to call the police.
Immediately after the attack occurred, regular unarmed police were deployed to the scene at 2:20 p.m., before subsequent 999 calls alerted emergency responders that the two attackers were also armed with a gun. When Authorised Firearms Officers arrived at the scene at 2:34 p.m., Adebolajo and Adebowale charged at them, one armed with the meat cleaver and the other armed with the revolver. Both were shot by police and wounded; they were taken to separate hospitals while investigators examined the crime scene and formally identified Rigby through dental records. The day following the attack, a 29-year-old man and two women were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, and two days afterward, three more people were arrested at two separate locations in southeast London. The following two days, two additional men were arrested, bringing the number of people arrested in connection to the attack to eight; all eight suspects were released afterwards. Seven houses or properties were also searched. On May 28, Adebowale was released from his hospital and taken into police custody, being charged with Rigby's murder and possession of a firearm. Three days later, Adebolajo was also released from his hospital and put into police custody, being charged with Rigby's murder and possession of a firearm, as well as two charges of attempting to murder police officers. On September 27, Adebolajo and Adebowale's trial began, and it lasted for almost three months. On December 19, both were found guilty, and the following month, they were individually sentenced to life in prison.
Queen Elizabeth II and other political and religious leaders expressed their concerns over the attack, and Muslim leaders had also denounced it. In the wake of the attack on Rigby, British soldiers were initially advised not to wear uniforms in public. A violent backlash against the Muslim community emerged immediately after the attack, with two attacks on mosques occurring on the following night; several men, including two former soldiers, were arrested in connection to this attack and others. Police were also deployed to curb protests and potential attacks against Muslims. By June 1, a total of 212 anti-Muslim incidents occurred, a majority of them happening online (although the legitimacy of the data was put into question since the organization who provided it no longer had renewed government funding at the time). There was also controversy surrounding the decision of several news stations to broadcast edited video footage of Adebolajo and Adebowale justifying the attack, with an investigation being launched by the broadcasting standards watchdog organization Ofcom into the footage's broadcasting due to hundreds of complaints that ensued. Ofcom's investigation later concluded that there were no breaches in broadcasting regulations, but the organization went on to issue new guidelines requiring for appropriate warnings for viewers to precede the broadcasting of any distressing content. A task force specializing in stopping the growth of Muslim extremism in the U.K. was also established.
Adebolajo and Adebowale struck Rigby with a Vauxhall Tigra sports car to incapacitate him before stabbing and hacking him to death using several knives and a meat cleaver, attacking him to the point of near-decapitation. When they tried to attack responding police officers, they utilized their meat cleaver as well as a revolver.
- May 22, 2013:
- Lee Rigby, 25 (struck by a car, then fatally stabbed and hacked with knives and a meat cleaver)
- Several unnamed police officers (attempted to shoot or stab)
- Previously, there had been a plot in 2007 to abduct a British soldier who was Muslim, hold him captive, and used to order the withdrawal of troops from Iraq before being murdered by decapitation. The plot was hatched by a group of British Pakistanis in Birmingham, England, with the intention of shaking the morale of the British Army and also stop its recruitment of Muslims. Several elements of this plot, including the incorporation of beheading, the role social media would play in the 2007 plot, and the intention of using the hostage to coerce the withdrawal of troops from Muslim countries, appeared in the attack on Rigby.
On Criminal Minds
Though Adebolajo and Adebowale weren't mentioned by name, their vehicular and cleaver attack on Lee Rigby was mentioned by Morgan in Final Shot alongside the Boston Marathon bombings committed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as examples of recent terrorist attacks.
- The Associated Press article about Adebolajo's 2010 arrest