Guardian report avoids obvious conclusions about radicalization of Woolwich terrorist

On May 23 we commented on a Guardian report about the terror attack on a British soldier named Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death in Woolwich by two men (including Michael Olumide Adebolajo) which buried the lead regarding Adebolajo’s radicalization under the influence of UK extremists Omar Bakri Mohammed and Anjem Choudary.


The report, by  Sandra LavillePeter Walker and Vikram Dodd, made almost no mention of why both Choudary and Bakri are ‘considered’ extremists – information regarding their reactionary, pro-jihadist ideology which we provided in the post.

However, a May 26 Guardian report by Benn Quinn, Woolwich suspect’s change in character can be traced to Kenya arrest – friend, is even more stunning in its failure to acknowledge the most obvious causation concerning Adebolajo’s radicalism.

Here are the first several passages of Quinn’s report:

A fuller picture is beginning to emerge of how the alleged killers of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich were radicalised.

In the case of Michael Adebolajo, the 28-year-old filmed at the scene of the killing declaring he was fighting for “almighty Allah”, one area of focus is during and after his time at Greenwich University, where he lived in student accommodation between 2004 and 2005.

Born in Lambeth into a church-going family of Nigerian origin, he is thought to have converted to Islam around 2003.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, the cleric who founded the now-banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun, has said he tutored Adebolajo after his conversion and the young man started coming to meetings of the group at a time when anger was high over the war in Iraq. The cleric described him as a shy man who would ask questions about when violence was justified.

Another potentially significant event was Adebolajo’s arrest in 2010 in Kenya close to the border with Somalia. Kenyan authorities say they believe he was preparing to train and fight with the al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

So, based on Quinn’s source Adebolajo’s radicalization at the point of his travel to Kenya in 2010 was not related to UK policy, and in fact was so extreme that he was willing to fight for al-Qaida linked terrorists outfit named al-Shabbab – a group which controls large swathes southern Somalia where it imposed its own strict form of Sharia law, and wages jihad against all “enemies of Islam”.

al-Shabbat logo
al-Shabbab logo

According to the US State Department, the group is responsible for the killing of thousands of Somali civilians, Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists, and African Union peacekeepers.

Quinn continues:

Adebolajo was later deported, but not before he was tortured, according to a friend who said the Londoner had gone abroad to study. Abu Nusaybah, who was arrested shortly after making the allegations in a BBC interview, in part attributed Adebolajo’s radicalisation to his alleged ill-treatment in Kenya.

Nusaybah said he believed that his friend became radicalised about six months ago, when he noticed what he regarded as profound changes in Adebolajo’s character, which he attributed to his experiences in Kenya and to events on his return to Britain.

Quinn neglects to note the stunning inconsistency in the friend’s claims – which implies that Adebolajo only became radical after he had already volunteered to fight on behalf of al Qaeda – and fails more generally (in the text of the report and accompanying headline) to acknowledge the timeline of what occurred.  

1. Adebolajo was from a devout Christian family but converted to Islam in 2003 at the age 19.

2. In the mid 2000s, Adebolajo was radicalized by UK radicals such as Anjem Choudary (and Omar Bakri Mohammed), and was a regular on radical marches in East London – in which demonstrators sometimes carried placards exhorting: ‘Behead those who insult Islam’ – and “often attended incendiary protests and lectures”. (Some terror experts have suggested that the language used by Adebolajo in his video right after the killing was similar to the rhetoric used by Choudary and fellow extremists.)

3. In 2010, Adebolajo made the decision to join an al-Qaeda linked terrorist group fighting to impose sharia law in Somalia.

4. In 2013 – three years after his decision to fight for al-Qaeda in Somalia – he hacks a British soldier to death in broad daylight while yelling “Allahu Akbar!”

Is isn’t really difficult to piece together a timeline, and determine that – based on the fact that he had already made the decision to fight for al Qaeda – Adebolajo was clearly radicalized prior to his trip to Kenya (not as a result of his treatment by Kenyan authorities), and, due to the influence of British Islamists, was determined to wage jihad all over the world to promote the hegemony of radical Islam.

For those not consumed with an ideologically inspired desire to avoid even the most obvious conclusions, a linear account of Adebolajo’s descent into Islamic extremism is not very difficult. 

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