Woolwich attack: Victim identified as soldier Lee Rigby

The soldier killed on the streets of southeast London on Wednesday has been identified by the UK Ministry of Defence as Lee Rigby, 25, a fusilier who had served stints in Cyprus and Afghanistan, and a father of a two-year-old boy.

The ministry confirmed the details "with great sadness" in a release on Thursday. Born in Crumpsall, Manchester, Rigby was part of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and "a passionate and life-long Manchester United fan", it said.

"Drummer Rigby or ‘Riggers’ as he was known within the Platoon was a cheeky and humorous man, always there with a joke to brighten the mood, he was an extremely popular member of the Fire Support Group (FSG)," said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, Commanding Officer Second Fusiliers.

Describing Rigby as "extremely popular", Captain Alan Williamson, Adjutant Second Fusiliers said: "An excellent side drummer and highly competent machine gunner, he was always there to help out the younger members of the FSG whenever possible."

His attackers, whom British authorities believe to be British-born men of Nigerian descent, ran him down in a car near Woolwich Barracks, then attempted to sever his head from his body with knives, said witnesses.

The attackers then told stunned bystanders that the killing was to revenge the British wars in Muslim countries.