The Muslim cleric who claims to have converted suspected killer Michael Adebolajo to Islam says the attack could be justified.
Omar Bakri Mohammed has been secretly filmed stating that decapitation of the enemies of Islam was permitted. Yesterday, in comments met with outrage, he told the Independent that he could understand the feeling of rage that had motivated the attackers and that what they had done could be justified under certain interpretations of Islam.
Adebolajo, a British-Muslim convert of Nigerian origin who gave a video interview with a meat cleaver in his bloodied hands while the body of 25-year-old drummer Lee Rigby lay on the street behind him, said he was fighting for "almighty Allah".
Bakri Muhammed, who now lives in Lebanon, said: "I saw the film and we could see that [the suspect] was being very courageous.
"Under Islam this can be justified, he was not targeting civilians, he was taking on a military man in an operation. To people around here he is a hero for what he has done."
Bakri Muhammed said of the suspect: "I knew him as Michael when he came to the meetings and then he converted and he became known as Abdullah; I hear he then started calling himself Mujahid.
He asked questions about religion, he was curious. He had first started coming when there was a lot of anger about the Iraq war and the war on terror. Whether I influenced him or not, I do not know. But he was a quiet boy, so something must have happened."
In 2007, following the conviction of a group of British Pakistanis who had plotted to kidnap and behead a British soldier, a secret recording emerged of Bakri Muhammed saying: "When you meet [Westerners], slice their own necks. And when you make the blood spill all over, and the enemy becomes so tired, now start to take from them prisoners."
Bakri Muhammed, who is Syrian-born, and has named one of his sons after Osama bin Laden, stated that he and his followers were not involved in violence while residing in Britain due to what had become known as the "covenant of security" under which Islamist organisations desisted from taking armed action in the country which had given them refuge.
"But in this case obviously the covenant of security did not apply," he said. "Beheading is how criminals were executed under the laws; but that must happen with a Sharia court and decision by judges ... On this occasion he was taking military action, not a legal one."