COUNTER-terrorism police were last night continuing to question a friend of Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo after he claimed in a televised interview that the suspect was approached by MI5 six months ago and asked if he would work for the security service.
Abu Nusaybah, who was interviewed on BBC’s Newsnight on Friday evening, was arrested immediately afterwards on suspicion of “the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.
In his interview, Nusaybah said Adebolajo became withdrawn after returning from a visit to study in Kenya, where he claimed he had been physically and sexually abused in detention.
Adebolajo and another man are suspected of killing 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby by hacking at his body with knives and a meat cleaver on a London street in front of dozens of passersby last Wednesday afternoon. Both suspects were shot by police at the scene and remain in a stable condition in hospital.
Nusaybah told the BBC that he believed Adebolajo changed after he was allegedly detained and abused by security forces in a Kenyan prison cell last year. After that, Adebolajo became “less talkative… he wasn’t his bubbly self,” he said.
Nusaybah said Adebolajo told him that when he returned to the UK he was “followed by MI5”, who were “knocking on his door” – a claim which is unverified by Whitehall.
Nusaybah told the BBC: “His wording was, ‘They are bugging me – they won’t leave me alone.’
“He mentioned initially they wanted to ask him if he knew certain individuals. But after him saying that he didn’t know these individuals, what he said was they asked him if he would be interested in working for them.
“He was explicit in that he refused to work for them but he did confirm he didn’t know the individuals.”
Meanwhile, two Muslim hard-liners described Adebolajo as a recent convert to Islam.
Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, said Adebolajo was a Christian who converted to Islam around 2003. He took part in several demonstrations by the group in London.
Omar Bakri Muhammad, who now lives in Lebanon but was a radical Muslim preacher in London, said Adebolajo attended his London lectures in the early 2000s.
The Metropolitan Police said a 31-year-old man was arrested in relation to terrorism offences and search warrants were executed at two addresses in east London.
He is being held in custody at a south London police station.
The arrest was not directly linked to the soldier’s death, the Met said.