Thursday 14 December 2017

Bomber's brother 'planned attack on UN special envoy'

'I know everything about my brother, what he was doing there in Manchester,' says brother

Bomber's brother: Hashim Abedi in Libya last week. Photo: Reuters
Bomber's brother: Hashim Abedi in Libya last week. Photo: Reuters

Josie Ensor in Beirut

The younger brother of the Manchester bomber was a member of a jihadist cell believed to have been planning an attack on the UN's special envoy to Libya.

The plot to target Martin Kobler, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, during a visit to the capital Tripoli earlier this year was interrupted before it could be carried out, diplomatic sources said.

Libyan security services had been monitoring the group for months and claim they found Hashim Abedi, the 20-year-old brother of suicide bomber Salman, 22, to be a "significant player".

They were apparently in the late stages of building an explosive device and intended to hit German national Mr Kobler's convoy.

MI6 officers are thought to be in Tripoli in a joint investigation with the Libyan authorities into the brothers.

Hashim was arrested last Tuesday night at the family home in Tripoli over links to Isil, and the boys' father Ramadan was also brought into custody.

Rada, the Libyan Special Deterrence Force holding them, alleges Hashim admitted he was aware of all the details of the Manchester Arena attack and that the two brothers had joined Isil.

A spokesman for the Libyan authorities said: "He told us, 'I have ideology with my brother. I know everything about my brother, what he was doing there in Manchester.'"

He added that Hashim told them that Salman had learnt how to make explosives on the internet and wanted to "seek victory for Isil".

Hashim was said to be en route to the bank to withdraw 4,500 Libyan dinars (€530) sent by the bomber when he was arrested by the militia.

They said they believed he was planning his own atrocity. British newspapers, with the help of fact-checker Henk van Ess at investigative website Bellingcat, recovered photos and posts from Hashim's deactivated Facebook page.

He liked to call himself "Hashim Corleone Abedi" on the account.

A friend of Hashim's shared a picture in 2012 of a plane flying into New York's twin towers, which Abedi "liked". In response to a question of who was his "hero", he answered Osama bin Laden.

Then, in June 2014, another friend posts a picture of the front page of a newspaper featuring Reyaad Khan, the Isil jihadist from Cardiff who was killed by an RAF drone strike in Raqqa, northern Syria. Hashim writes in praise of Khan and suggests to the friend that they join him in Syria. Appearing to know Khan, Hashim says: "Is that really (him)?.. Mashallah (thanks God).

"Hahhahaah inshallah (God willing) we go together man," he then replies.

One of his regular contacts on the account is Junade Hostey, the younger brother of Raphael, one of Britain's most prolific recruiters for Isil who left Manchester for Syria in 2013 before he was killed in an air strike last year. Police suspect Salman was friends with Raphael and are probing possible communication between them.

The social media accounts suggest a jihadist network spanning across Manchester, Cardiff and Portsmouth of young, radicalised men who appear to discuss their support for Isil and other terrorist groups. They share contacts and information and appear to encourage each other to join Isil.

Hashim's father Ramadan, a security officer in Muammar Gaddafi's government, and wife Samia, moved to the UK after fleeing Libya in the early 1990s.Ramadan, 51, then returned to Libya in 2008 after a reconciliation deal with the Gaddafi government.

Pictures on Ramadan's Facebook page show Hashim, aged about 15, holding an automatic rifle. The family then returned to Manchester in 2014, when the brothers enrolled in studies.

Reportedly worried their sons were becoming involved in gangs, Ramadan and his wife decided to take the family back to Libya in October last year.

A Rada spokesman said Hashim made a trip to Germany in December, before travelling on to London. They did not know the purpose of the visit.


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