What we know about the Manchester bomber
Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017 6:10PM EDT
Two days after 22 people were killed and 119 more were wounded in an apparent suicide bombing following an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K, details are beginning to emerge about the 22-year-old suspect and his family’s alleged ties to extremist groups in Libya.
As of Wednesday night, the suspect’s father and two of his brothers had been detained by police in the U.K. and Libya. British police, meanwhile, have detained five others in what they believe was the act of a terrorist “network.”
Twenty-two-year-old Salman Abedi, who British police say was responsible for the Manchester attack, was born in the U.K. to parents who had entered the country in the 1990s as political refugees from their native Libya. Raised in the Manchester area, Salman is one of six children. According to his father, he was studying economics in Manchester.
On Tuesday, residents of the Manchester neighbourhood that the suspect called home told The Associated Press that Salman was quiet, kept to himself and often sported traditional Islamic dress. Police raided the house early Tuesday, neighbours reported, where at least one controlled explosion was made.
Salman’s older brother Ismail Abedi, 23, who is believed to have lived at the same address, was detained by police later Tuesday in Manchester. According to a Libyan security spokesperson, a younger brother, Hashim Abedi, 18, was also detained on Tuesday in Libya. A Sept. 2012 photo posted to what is believed to be their father’s Facebook page shows a young man holding an automatic weapon with the caption, “Hashim the Lion in training.” Libyan officials are claiming that Hashim has confessed that both he and Salman belonged to the Islamic State group, which is highly active in Libya, and that Hashim also knew details about the attack. Their father, 51-year-old Ramadan Abedi, was also arrested in Libya on Wednesday.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Manchester bombing, though that claim has not yet been verified by British security officials. French officials, however, have told The Associated Press that the suspect had links to the Islamic State and had travelled to Syria. British officials have also told The Associated Press that Salman was known to intelligence services and police.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Manchester’s police chief stated that it is believed that Salman was part of a “network” and not a so-called “lone-wolf” terrorist. So far, British police have detained seven people, including Ismail, and conducted multiple raids in connection with the bombing. Several media outlets, citing British officials, have stated that the bomb used at the concert was much more sophisticated than those generally employed in lone-wolf attacks.
Ramadan Abedi, who spoke to The Associate Press by phone on Wednesday prior to his arrest in the Libyan city of Tripoli, has claimed that Salman is innocent.
“We don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us," he said in the interview. "We go to mosques. We recite Qur'an, but not that."
In the interview, Ramadan said that he last spoke to Salman two days before the Manchester attack, and that Salman was about to go on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Ramadan also said that Salman had visited Libya a month and a half ago and that he had planned to return to Libya for the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan, the father, denied claims that Salman has been to Syria.
Ramadan stated that he worked as a security officer in Libya during Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial rule before fleeing to Saudi Arabia in 1993 after being accused of links to Islamic extremists. Less than a year later, Ramadan moved to the U.K. where he was granted political asylum.
Ramadan returned to Libya in 2011 during the uprising that led to Gaddafi’s overthrow and death. A fierce civil war has raged in the country ever since. Ramadan currently works as the administrative manager of Tripoli’s Central Security force.
Speaking to The Associated Press, a former Libyan security official, however, claimed that Ramadan was a member of the now-defunct al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The former Libyan security official also claimed that he personally knew Ramadan and that Ramadan is a follower of the Salafi Jihadi movement, an extreme sect of Islam that has informed the ideologies of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
In his interview with The Associated Press, Ramadan denied being a member of any terrorist group. He was arrested in Tripoli shortly after the interview.
With files from The Associated Press