25 May 2013

Anti-Muslim backlash soars in wake of Woolwich murder

The murder of soldier Lee Rigby has provoked a backlash of anger across the UK, including the attacking of mosques, racial abuse and comments made on social media.

A number of people are due in court following arrests for making alleged offensive comments on social media sites this week.

One of the murder suspects was filmed by a member of the public shortly after the attack claiming he had carried it out “because David Cameron, (the) British government sent troops in Arabic country”.

Police arrested three people ahead of today’s English Defence League (EDL) march in Newcastle for allegedly posting racist comments on twitter.

The demonstrations, which several hundred people took part in, brought city centre traffic to a standstill.

Meanwhile, the British National Party (BNP) was accused of exploiting the death of Drummer Lee Rigby to further its “own poisonous needs”.

The far right group announced it was demonstrating in Woolwich, with national organiser Adam Walker claiming that a “line has been drawn in the sand and it signals the beginning of the civil war we have predicted for years”.

Read more: Rigby family say 'goodnight fallen soldier'

He said the next task “is to force the political class to take action and deport Muslim hate preachers”, starting with a demo next Saturday opposite the barracks in Woolwich.

The move was condemned as a provocative attempt to “divide our community”.

Onay Kasab, from Greenwich Socialist Party, accused the BNP of “attempting to cynically exploit this tragedy to further their own poisonous ends”.

“What happened in Woolwich on Wednesday was a despicable act, whatever the political motivations of the attackers. We completely condemn the murder. Members of the community from every ethnic and religious background have also joined together in condemning this cold-blooded killing.

“The BNP cannot be allowed to march this weekend. We call on the people of Woolwich to make a firm stand against racism, terror and war.”

Before the attack the organisation Faith Matters, which works to reduce extremism, said about four to eight anti-Muslim cases were reported per day on its helpline. However the group said about 150 incidents had been reported in the last few days, including attacks on mosques.

Police said they were monitoring social networking sites following a string of alleged offences.

MI5 claims

Last night, a childhood friend of the Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo claimed he was approached by MI5 six months ago and asked to work for the security service.

Abu Nusaybah told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that his friend, who was arrested after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on Wednesday, had rejected the request.

During the interview Nusaybah said he thought Adebolajo had undergone a “change” following his detention by security forces on a trip to Kenya last year.

He said Adebolajo suggested he had been physically and sexually abused while he was interrogated in the African country, and after this he became withdrawn and “less talkative – he wasn’t his usual bubbly self”.

Nusaybah said Adebolajo told him that when he returned to the UK he was “followed by MI5” who were “knocking on his door” – a claim which is unverified by Whitehall.

Nusaybah told the BBC: “His wording was, ‘They are bugging me – they won’t leave me alone.’

“He mentioned initially they wanted to ask him if he knew certain individuals.

“But after him saying that he didn’t know these individuals, what he said was they asked him if he would be interested in working for them.

“He was explicit in that he refused to work for them but he did confirm he didn’t know the individuals.”

It emerged on Saturday that Richard Taylor, father of the murdered schoolboy Damilola, was a mentor to Adebolajo. He told ITV News that, speaking as someone whose son had been killed, the two Woolwich suspects “don’t deserve to live”.

Woolwich murder: Suspect's friend Abu Nusaybah arrested after BBC Newsnight interview


Following Nusaybah’s interview last night, he was arrested at the BBC in relation to terrorism offences.

The Metropolitan Police said a 31-year-old man was arrested in relation to terrorism offences and search warrants were executed at two addresses in east London.

He was held on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and is being held in custody at a south London police station.

The arrest was not directly linked to Drummer Rigby’s death, the Met said.

A preliminary report into what the intelligence services knew about the two murder suspects will be handed over to an inquiry next week.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), chaired by former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, would investigate, following the disclosure that the two men were known to MI5.

Sir Malcolm has already been briefed by the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, who will give a preliminary report to the committee next week.

“I had a preliminary briefing from Andrew Parker a couple of days ago. We agreed the committee would receive a written report next week,” Sir Malcolm said.

“What we will be wishing to know is to what extent the intelligence services had any awareness of the two individuals.”

Public tributes

A steady stream of well-wishers have added flowers to the wall of tributes outside the Woolwich barracks where Lee Rigby was based.

Thousands of people have paid their respects over the last few days, while a book of condolence has been opened at the Woolwich Town Hall, where opening hours will be extended over the bank holiday weekend.

The charity Help for Heroes said today it has received almost £600,000 in money and pledges from the British public since Lee Rigby’s death.

Bryn and Emma Parry, co-founders of Help for Heroes, said the public response to his death has been “extraordinary and humbling”.

In a statement on the charity’s website, the Parrys said: “Many of us at H4H have loved ones in the Armed Forces. Some have lost family or seen their nearest and dearest injured and their lives changed forever. We are a close family and toegether with so many, felt the shock of Lee’s death.

“In times of crisis people rally and do great good to counter evil. Funds donated over the next few days will be raised in memory of Lee but will directly support his fellow servicemen, women and their families. Many will benefit from this spontaneous reaction and we need to ensure that the support is still in place long after the wars end.”