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UK sets up task force to target radical preachers after soldier killed on busy street

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    FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2005 file photo, Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed gestures while talking to the media, in Beirut, Lebanon. The slaying of a British soldier in east London cast a spotlight on radical preachers that influenced Michael Adebolajo, the attacker seen in videos with bloody hands wielding a butcher knife. It also raised questions about the reach of the terrorist group al-Shabab, after a British government official said one of the two men tried to go to Somalia to train or fight with the group.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)The Associated Press

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    In this undated image released Thursday May 23, 2013, by the British Ministry of Defence, showing Lee Rigby known as ‘Riggers’ to his friends, who is identified by the MOD as the serving member of the armed forces who was attacked and killed by two men in the Woolwich area of London on Wednesday. The Ministry web site included the statement "It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce that the soldier killed in yesterday's incident in Woolwich, South East London, is believed to be Drummer Lee Rigby of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers." (AP Photo / MOD)The Associated Press

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    Police search team leave the scene of a terror attack in Woolwich, southeast London, Thursday, May 23, 2013. A member of armed forces was attacked and killed by two men on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)The Associated Press

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    Family members of murdered British soldier Lee Rigby, from left to right, his mother Lyn, stepfather Ian, and his wife Rebecca Rigby, as his stepfather reads a statement during a press conference at the Regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at Bury in Greater Manchester, England, Friday May 24, 2013. Ian Rigby thanked people for their support and including the tribute "You fought bravely and with honour died". Drummer Lee Rigby had served in Afghanistan and was attached to the Regimental Recruiting Team when he was hacked to death in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon in Woolwich, south-east London. Two suspects were shot and arrested at the scene and remain in police custody. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)The Associated Press

Britain's government is setting up a new terrorism task force to tackle radical preachers and extremism, officials said Sunday, days after suspects apparently linked to extremist Islamist activists brutally killed a British soldier in a London street.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the group will look at whether new powers and laws are needed to clamp down on religious leaders and organizations who promote extremist messages and who target potential recruits in jails, schools and mosques.

Thousands of people are potentially at risk of being radicalized in Britain, May told the BBC.

"We need to look across institutions like universities, whether there is more work we can be doing in prisons," she said in the television interview.

The force will include senior ministers, London's police chief and the head of the MI5 domestic security service, and is expected to meet within the next few weeks.

The move came after 25-year-old British soldier Lee Rigby was run over and stabbed with knives in the Woolwich area in southeast London on Wednesday afternoon as he was walking near his barracks.

The two men suspected of killing the soldier, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, 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.

Hardline Muslim leaders have identified the man in the video as Adebolajo, an Islam convert who allegedly used to take part in London demonstrations organized by 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.

Omar Bakri Muhammad, a former al-Muhajiroun leader and radical Muslim preacher, has told The Associated Press that Adebolajo is a Nigerian who was born and raised in Britain. He said Adebolajo attended his London lectures in the early 2000s, but added he had not stayed in touch with the suspect since then. Bakri fled London and resettled in Lebanon in 2005.

British media reported Sunday that Adebolajo was arrested in 2010 in Kenya, where he was accused of leading a group of youths trying to join al-Shabab, a terrorist group in neighboring Somalia linked to Al Qaeda.

The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph both reported that Adebolajo appeared in a court in Kenya in late 2010 alongside other young alleged radical Islamists. He was remanded at a local police station and eventually deported to Britain, the reports said.