LONDON — A man seen with bloody hands wielding a butcher knife after the killing of a British soldier on the streets of London was described as a convert to Islam who took part in demonstrations with a banned radical group, two Muslim hard-liners said Thursday.
Police raided houses after the brazen slaying of the off-duty soldier, identified as Lee Rigby, of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who served in Afghanistan. In addition to the two suspects who were hospitalized after being shot by police, authorities said they had arrested a man and a woman, both 29, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Police would not say whether it appeared Rigby had been targeted because of his military service. Although he was not in uniform, he was said by witnesses to be wearing a T-shirt for a British veterans' charity.
Authorities have not identified either of the two wounded suspects. Officials in Britain usually wait to name suspects until charges have been filed.
Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, told the Associated Press the man depicted in startling video that emerged after Rigby's death was named Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam around 2003 and took part in several demonstrations by the group in London.
The BBC broadcast video from 2007 showing Adebolajo standing near Choudary at a rally.
Omar Bakri Muhammad, who now lives in Lebanon but had been a radical Muslim preacher in London, also said he recognized the man seen on TV as Adebolajo and said he attended his London lectures in the early 2000s.
The two men suspected of killing the 25-year-old Rigby had been part of previous investigations by security services, a British official said Thursday, as investigators searched several locations and tried to determine whether the men were part of a wider terrorist plot.
Rigby, the father of a 2-year-old boy, was slain Wednesday afternoon outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in the Woolwich area of south London while horrified bystanders watched in the busy city known for its decorum.
There were few signs of alarm Thursday on the streets of London. Even so, security was increased at military barracks and installations in the capital. Police said extra patrols were added at sensitive areas, including places of worship, transport hubs and congested areas.