Wednesday 26 July 2017

Manchester bomber Salman Abedi had 'proven' links with Isis, believed to have travelled to Syria

  • Suspected suicide bomber Salman Abedi carried out attack 'days after returning from Libya'
  • Visit to family's native country fuels concerns he was preparing for Monday's deadly assault under guidance of hardened jihadists
  • French interior minister said Abedi is also believed to have travelled to Syria
  • Minister said he had 'proven' links with the Islamic State terror group
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Manchester bomber Salman Abedi is believed to have travelled to Syria and had "proven" links with Islamic State, France's interior minister has said.

Gerard Collomb told French television that both British and French intelligence services had information that Abedi had been in Syria.

The disclosure came as Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed the UK security services had been aware of the British-born 22-year-old.

"We do know that he was known up to a point to the intelligence services," she told Sky News.

People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Women wait to take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
A woman waits to take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
Former England cricket captain Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff in the crowd ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Sikhs wave placards before a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
People hold a placard as they take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
People attendn a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People gather for a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People leave flowers during a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People leave flowers during a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People attend a vigil in Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
People gather for a vigil in Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall in Manchester after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien

"I am sure that we will get more information about him over the next few days and the next few weeks."

It is also believed Abedi perpetrated the worst outrage Britain has seen in a decade just days after returning from Libya.

The 22-year-old's visit to his family's native country fuelled concerns he was preparing for Monday's deadly assault under the guidance of hardened jihadists.

The Times reported the Manchester-born bomber spent three weeks in the war-torn north African nation before the attack on Manchester Arena, in which he was killed.

A friend told the paper: "He went to Libya three weeks ago and came back recently, like days ago."

Both Islamic State (IS), who claimed responsibility for the atrocity, and al Qaida have a presence in Libya, but the possibility remains that Abedi travelled to their heartland in Syria for training.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday night it was possible he had planned his deadly attack with a "wider group of individuals".

Born and raised in Manchester, Abedi grew up in a Muslim household - but matured into a university dropout with an appetite for bloodshed.

He was registered as living at Elsmore Road as recently as last year, where police raided a downstairs red-bricked semi-detached property on Tuesday.

Neighbours recalled an abrasive, tall, skinny young man who was little known in the neighbourhood, and often seen in traditional Islamic clothing.

He is thought to have lived at a number of addresses in the area, including one in Wilbraham Road, where plainclothes police made an arrest on Tuesday.

Abedi previously lived with his mother Samia Tabbal, father Ramadan Abedi and a brother, Ismail Abedi, who was born in Westminster in 1993.

He is thought to have a younger brother, Hashim Abedi, and a sister Jomana, whose Facebook profile suggests she is from Tripoli and lives in Manchester.

A family friend, who asked not to be named, said they were known to the Libyan community in the city and described Abedi as "normal".

He told the Press Association: "He was always friendly, nothing to suggest (he was violent). He was normal, to be honest."

Abedi is believed to have attended the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as the Didsbury Mosque.

Here, he reportedly caught the attention of one imam whom he stared down during a sermon denouncing terrorism.

"Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon," Mohammed Saeed told The Guardian of the 2015 encounter.

"He was showing me hatred."

Fawaz Haffar, a businessman and trustee of the mosque, said he "probably" did attend there, given his father used to perform the call to prayer and his brother Ismail attended as a volunteer until recently.

He said: "I see him (the father) praying but I don't know really who he is. I see him sometimes raising the azan, or call to prayer, but that was a long time ago.

"As far as I knew he went back to Libya when things were much better over there, to work over there.

"He was devout as far as I know. He had three sons, one of them is detained, one of them is a suspect and the third one I have no idea who he is."

He said the mosque is moderate, modern and liberal and that he is a member of an organisation liaising with police, the Independent Advisory Group.

Abedi studied business and management at Salford University two or three years ago, a source said, but dropped out of the course and did not complete his degree.

The source said Abedi began his course in 2014 and attended lectures for two years but then stopped going.

He would have graduated this summer.

He did not live in university accommodation, had not been in any trouble at the university and was not on any radar for pastoral or social care.

It is understood Abedi was not known to have participated in any clubs or societies during his time in higher education - and never met with the resident imam.

Dr Sam Grogan, the university's Pro-Vice Chancellor Student Experience, said: "All at the University of Salford are shocked and saddened by the events of last night. Our thoughts are with all those involved, their families and their friends."

Meanwhile, the Elysee Palace announced that France's president Emmanuel Macron is seeking to extend the country's state of emergency, imposed after Islamic State attacks, until November.

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