Thou­sands mourn sol­dier killed by ‘Is­lamists’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Bri­tish prime min­is­ter David Cameron joined thou­sands of mourn­ers yes­ter­day at the fu­neral of a Bri­tish sol­dier killed in broad day­light by al­leged Is­lamic ex­trem­ists.

Lee Rigby, 25, was hacked to death on May 22 in a Lon­don street near his army bar­racks. The killing shocked Bri­tain and much of the world.

Yes­ter­day, Rigby’s fam­ily and mourn­ers were greeted with ap­plause by mem­bers of the pub­lic lin­ing the streets out­side Bury Parish Church in north­west Eng­land, where soldiers from Rigby’s Royal Reg­i­ment of Fusiliers had main­tained an hon­our guard overnight.

The sol­dier’s widow, Rebecca, walked into the church with the cou­ple’s two-year-old son Jack, who wore a T-shirt bear­ing the words “My Daddy My Hero”. Rigby’s par­ents and sis­ters were in tears.

Lon­don mayor Boris John­son was among the pub­lic of­fi­cials in at­ten­dance.

The ser­vice was pri­vate, in keep­ing with the fam­ily’s wishes, but broad­cast on loud­speak­ers to well-wish­ers pack­ing the street out­side the church.

Rigby’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, Lt. Col. Jim Tay­lor, de­scribed the sol­dier as “ex­tremely pop­u­lar” and “truly charis­matic”, telling mourn­ers the man known to friends as “Rig­gers” loved to per­form.

“To be with Lee was to be where it was most fun – the cen­tre of good times and much mis­chief,” Tay­lor said in a eu­logy. “Peo­ple fell quickly un­der his spell. Whether it was in work or off duty, at a cer­e­mo­nial en­gage­ment or on op­er­a­tions, Lee just knew how to lighten the mood. He could brighten a room within mo­ments and, by all ac­counts, clear a dance floor in sec­onds, if a Whit­ney Hous­ton track was play­ing.”

Rebecca Rigby had ear­lier ex­pressed grat­i­tude for the “over­whelm­ing” out­pour­ing of sup­port fol­low­ing the at­tack.

“There are so many kind and gen­er­ous peo­ple out there,” she said ahead of the fu­neral. “It’s just hor­ri­ble that it takes some- thing such as this to make you see how many good peo­ple there are.”

Rigby’s death caused a spike in racial ten­sions in Bri­tain due to the ap­par­ent in­volve­ment of re­li­gious ex­trem­ists. Po­lice re­ported an in­crease in at­tacks on Mus­lim mosques and com­mu­nity cen­tres in the sub­se­quent weeks.

The two men charged with Rigby’s killing – Michael Ade­bo­lajo, 28, and Michael Ade­bowale, 22 – are due to stand trial start­ing on Novem­ber 18. – Sapa-AP

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