NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A suspect in the savage killing of a British soldier on a London street was arrested in Kenya in 2010 near the East African country’s border with Somalia, an anti-terrorism police official said Sunday.
Michael Adebolajo was believed to have been preparing to train and fight with the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab in 2010 when he was arrested with five others, Boniface Mwaniki, Kenya‘s anti-terrorism police unit head, told The Associated Press.
“Kenya‘s government arrested Michael Olemendis Ndemolajo. We handed him to British security agents in Kenya, and he seems to have found his way to London and mutated to Michael Adebolajo,” spokesman Muthui Kariuki said. “The Kenyan government cannot be held responsible for what happened to him after we handed him to British authorities.”
Mr. Kariuki said Mr. Adebolajo was traveling on a British passport, but he could not confirm if it was authentic.
When asked about reports that British Embassy officials were involved, a Foreign Office statement said: “We can confirm a British national was arrested in Kenya in 2010. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided consular assistance as normal for British nationals.”
British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, was run over and stabbed with knives in the Woolwich area in southeast London on Wednesday afternoon as he was walking near his barracks.
Mr. Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are suspected in the killing and remained under armed guard in separate London hospitals after police shot them at the scene.
The gruesome scene was captured by witnesses’ cellphones, and a video picked up by British media showed one of the suspects, with bloodied hands, making political statements and warning of more violence as the soldier lay on the ground behind him.
Hard-line Muslim leaders have identified the man in the video as Mr. Adebolajo, an Islam convert who allegedly used to take part in London demonstrations organized by the British radical group al-Muhajiroun. The group catapulted to notoriety after the Sept. 11 attacks by organizing an event to celebrate the airplane hijackers and was banned in Britain in 2010.
Mr. Adebolajo’s friend asserted in a BBC interview that Mr. Adebolajo became withdrawn after he allegedly suffered abuse by Kenyan security forces during interrogation in prison there. Mr. Mwaniki said that at the time there were no indications of torture or abuse.
Mr. Mwaniki said dozens of foreign youth are arrested every year attempting to cross the Kenyan border to join al-Shabab, which claims to be fighting a jihad, or holy war, against the Somali government and African Union forces.
Associated Press reporter Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.