LONDON - A man accused of the gruesome murder of a British soldier told his trial on Monday that he loves Al-Qaeda and considers the Islamic militants to be his "brothers".
Michael Adebolajo, 28, sat surrounded by security guards as he began giving evidence in his trial at London's Old Bailey court.
He and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight as he walked back to his London barracks in May.
The court has heard that the pair ran Rigby over with a car before attacking him with knives and Adebolajo attempted to behead him with a meat cleaver.
The defendants, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murder.
The soldier's family sat just metres (feet) from Adebolajo in the courtroom as he said: "Al-Qaeda, I consider to be mujahideen. I love them, they're my brothers."
He added that he has never met members of the militant group.
Adebolajo said he had been raised as a Christian but converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University in south London, close to where Rigby was killed.
"My religion is everything," he told the court.
The jury heard that Adebolajo, who has asked to be called Mujaahid Abu Hamza in court, is married and has six children.
Growing up in Romford, east of London, he said that the "vast majority" of his school friends were white Britons. One of them had joined the army and was killed in Iraq.
Adebolajo said he held former prime minister Tony Blair, who sent British forces to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, "responsible" for his friend's death.
Adebolajo tried to travel to Somalia in 2010 but was captured in Kenya and brought back to Britain, the court heard.
He said that before the brutal attack on Rigby, he had attended demonstrations organised by an Islamist group banned under British anti-terror laws, but then realised the protests were "impotent rage".
"In reality, no demonstration will make a difference," he added.
He told the court several times that he was a "soldier" and that he did not regret what happened to Rigby.
"I will never regret obeying the command of Allah. That is all I can say," he said.
The trial heard last week that Adebolajo told police he and Adebowale had targeted a soldier because they believed this was "the most fair target" in an attack aimed at avenging the deaths of Muslims abroad.
He said he tried to behead Rigby because it was the most "humane" way to kill him, comparing it to halal butchery methods.