A man accused of murdering an off-duty British soldier in London has defended his actions in court, saying he carried out the attack because he was a soldier fighting in the service of God.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, told London's Central Criminal Court on Monday that he attacked Lee Rigby, because he wanted to protest Britain's invasion of Muslim lands.

It's a war between Islam and those militaries that invaded Muslim lands. One of them happens to be British military and, unfortunately, the war continues to this day.

Michael Adebolajo

"I am a soldier of Allah. I understand that some people might not recognise this, because we do not wear fatigues," Adebolajo said, flanked by five prison guards in the heavily-secured courtroom.

"It's a war between Islam and those militaries that invaded Muslim lands. One of them happens to be British military and, unfortunately, the war continues to this day."

Adebolajo, who converted to Islam in 2002, became emotional when he told the court that he feared "hellfire" if he did not fight for Allah.

Adebolajo and co-defendant Michael Adebowale, 22, both British citizens, are accused of running over Afghan war veteran in Woolwich, southeast London on May 22 before attacking his unconscious body with knives and a meat cleaver.

The suspects denied the charge.

Adebolajo told the hushed courtroom he admired al-Qaeda, but he never met its members.

Grisly footage

"I love them. They are my brothers," said Adebolajo, giving his name as Mujaahid Abu Hamza. "I have never met them but I love them."

He said he should be ransomed to his "mujaheed [holy fighter] brothers", set free or killed.

Adebolajo said he rushed at the police who arrived at the scene minutes after the killing because his religion forbade him to run away from the enemy.

The jury has been shown footage of Adebolajo with bloodied hands talking to passers-by shortly after dragging Rigby's body into the street so the public could see it.

He and and Adebowale were also shown running at armed police, brandishing weapons, before being shot.

The trial is expected to last a further two weeks.

Source: Agencies