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updated: 5/27/2013 7:01 AM

U.K. to weigh more curbs on extremists after soldier's death

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  • Lyn Rigby, mother of Drummer Lee Rigby, holding a teddy bear joins other family members as they look at floral tributes outside Woolwich Barracks left by well wishers as they visited the scene of the 25-year-old soldier's murder in Woolwich, south-east London, Sunday May 26, 2013.

      Lyn Rigby, mother of Drummer Lee Rigby, holding a teddy bear joins other family members as they look at floral tributes outside Woolwich Barracks left by well wishers as they visited the scene of the 25-year-old soldier's murder in Woolwich, south-east London, Sunday May 26, 2013.
    Associated Press

 
Bloomberg News

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May said the government is reviewing its powers to counter extremist groups following an attack that left a 25-year-old soldier dead in the middle of a busy road in London.

A task force on terrorism will consider whether it needs wider authority to ban such organizations and prevent the messages of extremist preachers from reaching the public, May said on the BBC's "Andrew Marr Show" yesterday. The government will also review whether the country's intelligence services missed clues leading up to the May 22 attack in which Lee Rigby died.

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"We need to look at whether we need banning orders" for organizations that don't meet the current criteria, May said. "When things like this happen, we do need to look at whether things need to be learned." She cited Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned Islamist organization Al Muhajiroun, as someone whose public comments should be scrutinized.

The main suspects in Rigby's death, a 22-year-old man and 28-year-old man, remain hospitalized in stable condition after being shot during their arrest. A similar attack was carried out in Paris May 25 when a 23-year-old French soldier was stabbed while patrolling near the Metro station in La Defense, a business district on the western edge of France's capital.

Seven other suspects have been arrested in the London case, six of whom were released. Of the six, four have been bailed, pending further enquiries. Rigby was stabbed with knives and cleavers in the neighborhood of Woolwich, across the street from an army barracks.

Social Media

"We are pursuing a significant amount of CCTV, social media, forensic and intelligence opportunities and have active lines of inquiry," Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. "This remains an ongoing investigation focused upon public safety and identifying any others that may be involved."

The hospitalization of the two suspects has given police extra time to investigate the soldier's killing before facing a deadline to charge them. While police usually have 36 hours to file charges or seek an extension from a judge, the countdown doesn't start until the suspects appear in a police station for questioning.

Rigby's death has heightened tensions over security and Islamic extremism in a city that was targeted by four suicide bombers who killed 52 people in a coordinated attack on Underground trains and a bus in 2005. Two unexploded car bombs were found in central London in 2007.

Bloodied Hands

"It looks like it's wider than just a couple of lone wolves," Alan Johnson, a Labour Party lawmaker and former home secretary, said on the "Andrew Marr Show" after arrests in the case were made the evening before.

Video footage broadcast by ITV News showed a man, his hands covered in blood and holding a cleaver and a knife, speaking after the attack. "We must fight them as they fight us," he said in a London accent. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Your people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don't care about you."

The U.K. will review "what's being beamed into people's homes," May said. "There is no doubt that people are able to watch things through the Internet that can lead to radicalization."

Holy War

The BBC and other U.K. media identified the suspects as Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. In 2010, the former was arrested in Kenya and later deported after officials had reason to believe he was planning to train with al-Shabab Somali militants, Boniface Mwaniki, Kenya's anti-terrorism police unit chief, told the Associated Press yesterday. Kenyan government spokesman Muthui Kariuki told the news service the suspect was arrested under a different name and handed over to British authorities in Kenya.

The Independent newspaper reported that Adebolajo was known to belong to Al Muhajiroun, which favors the imposition of Islamic law and publicly celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. He went by the name of Mujahid -- a Muslim engaged in holy war -- until two years ago, Choudary was cited as saying by the newspaper.

'Disgusting Views'

May said Choudary "has disgusting views," and that "we need to see how those views are presented" to the public.

Investigators in the case arrested a 22-year-old man yesterday in north London on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, the Metropolitan Police Service said in an e-mailed statement. He was being held in custody at a south London police station, the force said. Three men in their 20s were arrested May 25 in connection with the soldier's death and were bailed to return to a south London police station, police said today.

The day after Rigby's killing, two women, 29 and 31, and a 29-year-old man were arrested as part of the investigation. The women were released without charge and the man is free on bail, police said in e-mailed statements.

Around 500 police officers and other investigators, including members of counterterrorism units from forces around the country, are working on the case, May said.

Rigby, father of a 2-year-old son, was a drummer in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. A fan of the Manchester United soccer team, he served as a machine gunner in Cyprus and then in 2009 as a member of a fire support group in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Sky News showed his family visiting the scene of his killing yesterday and leaving flowers.

Police said a 31-year-old man was arrested in London May 24 on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. The arrest isn't linked to Rigby's death, police said. The man was in custody at a south London police station, the force said on its website.

--With assistance from Robert Hutton, Thomas Penny, Heather Langan and Gabi Thesing in London and Mina Kawai in New York. Editors: Peter Chapman, Heather Langan

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Moshinsky in Brussels at bmoshinskybloomberg.net; Lindsay Fortado in London at lfortadobloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaaronsbloomberg.net

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