May 22, 2013: Terrorists murder soldier in UK

On May 22, 2013 two jihadis ran over a UK veteran of the Afghan War in Woolwich and tried to decapitate him.

WOOLICH, ENGLAND – If ever Brian Jenkins’ comment that ‘terrorism is theatre’ needed an example this Islamist attack in the UK provides it.

I have been very fortunate to come to know Brian Jenkins over the past few decades. He is simply one of the most astute commentators on terrorism that there is. A former US Green Beret, Brian has formulated some of the most profound thoughts on terrorism (and was a guest of mine in 2020: spoiler alert – he’ll be back!).

One of Brian’s mottos when it comes to terrorism is “Terrorists don’t want a lot of people dead: they want a lot of people watching”. Another is “Terrorism is theatre“. Both of these ideas came to pass in today’s featured attack.

All the world’s a stage and the terrorists are sometimes the lead players (Photo: H.T. Yu on flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

On this day in 2013

Two jihadis struck Fusilier Lee Rigby, a veteran of the Afghan War, with their car in Woolwich, in the southeastern part of London. Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, dragged the lifeless body to the curb and proceeded to try to decapitate Mr. Rigby.

He knelt down by Lee Rigby and took hold of his hair. He then repeatedly hacked at the right side of his neck just below the jawline. He was using considerable force, bringing his hand into the air each time before he struck.

UK Prosecutor Richard Whittam

An eyewitness reported that Adebolajo started spouting off about religion saying, “these soldiers go to our land, kill or bomb our people, so an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  Or in this case a head for a head? The terrorists then deliberately waited for the police, scaring off the public by pointing an unloaded gun at them. Police shot the two men as Adebolajo closed in on them.

Rigby’s killers were committed and long-term extremists connected to the al-Muhajiroun network in the UK. They were later found guilty and sentenced to a long time in prison (Adebolajo was given a whole-life term and Adebowale was jailed for a minimum of 45 years).

The image of the terrorist’s blood-stained hands which he held aloft as a matter of pride will never leave me. It was a spectacular, and terrible, bit of theatre.

Read More Today in Terrorism

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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