|Picture of one of the suspects holding a Knife|
British authorities are debating whether to raise the country's threat level one day after a British soldier was hacked to death by suspects shouting jihadist slogans in southeast London.
Britain's top leaders held an emergency meeting today in the equivalent of the White House Situation Room, deciding whether they believe Wednesday's assault near an army barracks could lead to more attacks.The soldier's family has asked that his identity not be released.
Counterterrorism police searched a home in northeast England, according to police in Lincolnshire, and officers were seen meticulously searching a parking garage and a lawn in Woolwich, where the attack took place. They also continue to interview the two suspects, who are in the hospital under arrest after they were both shot by armed police. It's unclear whether they are cooperating with authorities.
One of the alleged attackers was a British Christian who converted to Islam, according to Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the group Al Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist Organization.
Choudary told ABC News that the killer's name is Michael Adebolajo, who converted to Islam in 2003 and changed his name to Mujahid, meaning one who wages jihad.
Choudary said Adebolajo was never a member of Al Muhajiroun but knew him because he attended the group's rallies from about 2005 to 2011.
After 2011, Choudary said, Adebolajo stopped attending rallies. Choudary said he has no idea what Adebolajo has been doing since, and he said that Adebolajo never suggested any antipathy to British soldiers or any willingness to commit violence.
"He was a very peaceful man," Choudary told ABC News. "Never saw any kind of violence streak in him. Very quiet, timid man, in fact."
After the attack, instead of fleeing the scene, Abedolajo and his alleged accomplice invited eyewitnesses to interview them on their camera phones. Abedolajo spoke to one eyewitness while holding two bloody knives and his hands stained deep red, used rhetoric similar to that used in martyrdom videos.
"We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone, your people will never be safe," Abedolajo said calmly, according to ITV News, which first obtained the video. "Tell them to bring our troops back so we -- so you -- can all live in peace."
The attack occurred a few hundred feet from an army barracks in Woolwich, home to the Princess of Wales' regiment and the King's Troop, a ceremonial unit. Authorities have increased security at the 10 army barracks across London, according to British officials.
British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the police response this morning.
"This was not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam," Cameron told reporters after chairing the meeting of senior government officials. "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly barbaric act."
Police and community leaders feared violent backlashes following the attack, especially in Woolwich, which has had a past history of racial tensions.
A few hundred members of the anti-immigrant and right-wing party the English Defense League poured into the area Wednesday night, wearing masks and throwing rocks at police. And police reported two separate attacks on Muslim centers in southern and eastern England.
Police in Essex, east of London, arrested a 43-year-old who was holding a knife outside of a Muslim prayer center Wednesday night. They charged him with attempted arson as well as suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, Essex police told ABC News.