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A former Met Commissioner has said the public need to know whether the security services are operating properly following the Woolwich killing, as reports found the two attackers were known to MI5.

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Lord Blair said it was important a statement was made clearing up whether or not bad decisions were taken by the services in their monitoring of the two men accused of killing Drummer Lee Rigby.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, he said: “I think it’s important for the public to have somebody say within the limits of legality that either something was mistaken, decisions were badly taken, or they weren’t, because I think it’s important for the public to know that security services and the police are operating properly.”

But even with the necessary resources, officials must have “very high levels of suspicion”, he added.

On the same programme, the government’s communities secretary Eric Pickles stressed the Prime Minister was “very clear” he wanted to see an investigation about “what went right and what went wrong” as it emerged the alleged killers - reported as Michael Adebolajo, 28, and 22-year-old Michael Adebowale - were known to security services.

Ex-MI6 officer Richard Barrett told the BBC it was “enormously hard” to identify that someone is going to commit a crime like this.

“When does a person who expresses radical views, who joined a radical group, flip over to be a violent extremist, somebody who’s going to commit a crime like this?” he said.

“And to find the signals, the sort of red flags as it were I think is enormously hard. And I imagine these two people themselves didn’t have any intention to commit a crime like this until relatively recently before they did.”

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