Michael Adebolajo denies murdering Lee Rigby along with his co-accused Michael Adebowale (Met Police)
Michael Adebolajo denies murdering Lee Rigby along with his co-accused Michael Adebowale (Met Police)

One of the men accused of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby has described himself in court as a soldier who is fighting a war.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, also told the Old Bailey of his admiration for al-Qaida and how he considered the people in it as "his brothers".

Adebolajo is accused murdering the Rigby by driving into him in a car and hacking him to death on the streets on Woolwich, southeast London, on 22 May. Michael Adebowale, 22, has been accused alongside him. The pair are also charged with attempting to murder a police officer and conspiracy to murder a police officer.

The pair deny the charges but have pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Adebolajo said that he converted to Islam during his first year of university. He was brought up in a Christian household in Romford, east London.

At the beginning of his trial, Adebolajo asked to be known as Mujahid Abu Hamza in court.

When asked why he denied murder, Adebolajo said it was because he was a "soldier of Allah".

He added: "I understand that some people might not recognise this because we do not wear fatigues and we do not go to the Brecon Beacons and train. But we are still soldiers in the sight of Allah as a mujahid [fighter].

"This is all that matters. If Allah considers me a soldier, then I am a soldier.

"Growing up I never did think of killing a man. This is not the type of thing that the average child thinks of and I was no different," he continued.

"When a soldier joins the army he perhaps has in his head an understanding that he will kill a man at some stage. When I became a mujahid I was aware that perhaps I might end up killing a soldier."

Adebolajo told the jury that he and Adebowale prayed to Allah to make sure that they attacked a soldier instead of a civilian.

He said: "I don't believe there's a way to know 100% that [he] was a soldier. However, there were some steps we took.

"For example, before we started out on that day and the night previous to that I started worshipping Allah and begging him that we strike a soldier and a soldier only.

"As well as that, while we were waiting we continued to beg Allah to ensure that we did not target anyone [else]. I saw the soldier, he was carrying this type of bag they all carry in Woolwich.

"Then we waited to ensure he was going towards the entrance of the barracks. These things combined made me certain that he was a soldier."

When asked about his opinion on al-Qaida, Adebolajo said: "I consider them a mujahid group. I love them. They are my brothers. I never met them but I love them. I consider them my brothers in Islam."

He added that the British invasion of Iraq in 2003 - before he converted to Islam - had left him "disgusted".

In 2010, he tried to travel to Somalia but was captured in Kenya and brought back to the UK, the court heard.

"There's a lot more to the story but I won't mention that," he added.

The trial continues.