The Woolwich 'beheading' is straight out of al-Qaeda's terror manual

The horrific killing in Woolwich, where a man believed to be a soldier based at the nearby Woolwich barracks was beheaded by two machete-wielding assailants, has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack.

At the time of writing we are still awaiting confirmation from security officials about the precise nature of the incident. But having just watched some ITV footage, which shows a man with bloodied hands who is carrying a machete saying directly into the camera "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you", it seems pretty clear to me what has happened.

For years al-Qaeda activists such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who preached global jidad from his base in Yemen until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike two years ago, have been calling on their followers to launch their own home-grown attacks.

Rather than trying to carry out sophisticated operations on the scale of the September 11 attacks, or the July 7 bombings in London in 2005, Awlaki urged his followers to take matters into their own hands and conduct basic attacks, such as launching suicide bomb attacks in British shopping centres, or attacking British military targets.

To date the intelligence and security services appear to have succeeded in disrupting these so-called homegrown plots, and a number of al-Qaeda terrorists have recently received lengthy jail terms. In one of these plots an al-Qaeda terrorist wanted to kidnap a British soldier in the Midlands and film himself beheading his captive.

Now it seems al-Qaeda has finally achieved its goal.

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