By Philip Caulfield AND Corky Siemaszko / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A banned Islamic preacher with Al Qaeda ties gave his blessing Friday to the brutal murder of a British soldier by two of his fanatical followers.
Omar Bakri Mohammed called the culprits who mowed down Lee Rigby with a car and tried to cut his head off “courageous.”
The crazed cleric said he was especially impressed with cleaver-wielding maniac Michael Adebolajo, who was caught on cell phone video railing about taking “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” to avenge Muslims slain in Afghanistan.
“It’s incredible,” Bakri told reporters in Lebanon, where he is now based. “When I saw that, honestly I was very surprised — standing firm, courageous, brave. Not running away.”
Bakri, who was banished from Britain in 2005 and was secretly taped telling his flock that Islam justifies slicing the necks of enemies, said Rigby was a legitimate target.
“Under Islam this can be justified, he was not targeting civilians, he was taking on a military man in an operation,” Bakri said of Adebolajo. “To people around here he is a hero for what he has done.”
Bakri is the spiritual leader and founder of a radical Islamic group called al-Muhajiroun that became notorious after it’s members publicaly celebrated the 9/11 attacks.
His barbaric pronouncements about the awful attack on Rigby came as the British-born Adebolajo’s accomplice was identified as 22-year-old Michael Adebowale. He was taped screaming, “We want to start a war in London tonight!”
Maajid Nawaz, a former jihadi now with the London-based anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, told ABC News that two terrorists were trying to inspire copy cat attacks.
“One of the reasons why these guys acted in this theatrical way was because of the propaganda effect, so others would be inspired to do the same thing,” he said. “The nature of these attacks are that they are so easy to do, and we have definitely seen an increase in chatter calling for such things since the attack.”
Adebolajo and Adebowale, both Muslim converts of Nigerian extraction, they were shot and wounded by police shortly after they slaughtered Rigby in broad daylight Wednesday, May 22 on a South London street.
In a chilling 10-second clip obtained by The Daily Mirror newspaper in London, Adebolajo was seen charging a police cruiser and getting within just a few feet from the officers before two shots sent him sprawling toward the curb.
Adebowale appeared to be aiming a gun at cops when they dropped him with four shots. “I have never seen anything like this before, or even heard of it happening before,” Former Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kirkham of the Metropolitan Police told The Mirror. “For two suspects to carry out a brutal attack like this then stand around in plain sight waiting for the police is crazy.”
Both men survived the shooting and were recovering in two different London hospitals under heavy guard. Neither has been charged with a crime.
Two more suspects — a man and a woman, both 29 — were later arrest in connection with the attack. Their names were not released.
Adebolajo and Adebowale are among the 3,000 Muslim extremists that MI5, the British secret service, was supposed to be monitoring. And neither was considered a threat, a government source told Reuters.
Prime Minister David Cameron said a parliamentary committee will now look into whether MI5 missed signs that Adebolajo and Adebowale were about to launch a terror attack.
Meanwhile, mainstream Muslim leaders across England have condemned the attack on Rigby and British police are out in force protecting mosques from revenge attacks by right wing thugs.