Lee Rigby was not in uniform when he was attacked and killed outside Woolwich Barracks in southeast London.
LONDON — The soldier slain in a suspected terrorist attack in London was a popular 25-year-old drummer and machine gunner, a father, and a passionate fan of the Manchester United soccer team, the British military said Thursday.
Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who had joined the army in 2006, was posted in Cyprus, Afghanistan and Germany before becoming a recruiter, assisting with duties in the Tower of London.
"All he wanted to do from when he was a little boy was be in the Army," Rigby's family said in a statement issued through the Ministry of Defense. "He wanted to live life and enjoy himself."
The family said that Rigby would "do anything for anybody," always looked out for his sisters and took a "big brother" role with everyone he met.
"He was a loving son, husband, father, brother, and uncle, and a friend to many," the statement added.
Rigby, nicknamed Riggers, was an important member of the Corps of Drums who was known for his good nature and wit, as well as his love of his hometown soccer team, fellow soldiers said. Two men believed to have extremist Islamic beliefs are suspected of attacking and killing him.
"He was one of the battalion's great characters, always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers. He was easily identified ... on parade by the huge smile on his face and how proud he was to be a member of the Drums," Warrant Officer Class 1 Ned Miller said in a statement issued by the Defense Ministry. "He would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again."
The ministry said Rigby had a 2-year-old son, Jack.
"His loss will be felt across the battalion, but this is nothing compared to how his family must be feeling at this difficult time," said Capt. Alan Williamson, the adjutant of the 2nd Fusiliers in the statement.
A small group of mourners gathered Thursday at a church in Woolwich near where Rigby was killed to remember him. The Rev. Christopher Chessun said he had come to show solidarity with members of all faiths shocked by the killing.
Help for Heroes, a military support charity, said it was working hard to keep up with the many people who were showing their solidarity by buying T-shirts and hoodies.
In Wednesday's attack, witnesses said two men used a car to run down Rigby, who was not in uniform, then attacked him with a meat cleaver and knives. The pair then told shocked bystanders they acted in revenge for British wars in Muslim countries.
British police say two more people have been arrested by officers investigating the hacking death of a U.K. soldier in London, The Associated Press reported.
Scotland Yard said counterterrorism officers arrested a man and a woman — both 29 — on Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. Both suspects are in custody at a south London police station.
Two suspects shot and arrested by police at the scene Wednesday — a 22-year-old man and a 28-year-old man — remain hospitalized in stable condition with injuries that are not life-threatening, police added. Police have not identified either of the two suspects and have not said when they would do so. Authorities in Britain usually wait to name suspects after they have been charged.
A dramatic clip filmed by an onlooker showed one of the attackers, identified as Michael Adebolajo, his hands covered in blood and speaking in a local accent apologizing for taking his action in front of women but justifying it on religious grounds:
"We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day," he said. "This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Anjem Choudary, the former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, told The Associated Press that the man depicted in the video clip was Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam around 2003 and took part in several demonstrations by the group in London.
The BBC broadcast video from 2007 showing Adebolajo standing near Choudary at a rally.
Omar Bakri Muhammad, who now lives in Lebanon but had been a radical Muslim preacher in London, also said he recognized the man seen on TV as Adebolajo and said he attended his London lectures in the early 2000s.
Bakri, speaking from Lebanon, said he remembers Adebolajo as a "shy person" who was keen to learn about Islam and asked interesting questions.
"He used to listen more than he spoke," Bakri said. "I was very surprised to learn that he is the suspect in the attack."
The two men suspected of killing the 25-year-old Rigby had been part of previous investigations by security services, a British official said Thursday, as investigators searched several locations and tried to determine whether the men were part of a wider terrorist plot.
There also was no clear indication on when or where the suspects may have been radicalized.
The attack revived fears of "lone wolves." These may have had no direct contact with al-Qaida but are inspired by radical preachers and by Islamist militant Web sites, some of which urge people to attack Western targets with whatever means they have.
More from MSN News
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.