Tuesday 22 May 2018

'Face of hate' suicide bomber had made trips to Libya, Downing Street reveals

UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday called the bombing an act of ‘sickening cowardice’ as it targeted defenceless children. Photo: PA
UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday called the bombing an act of ‘sickening cowardice’ as it targeted defenceless children. Photo: PA

Robert Mendick

The Manchester Arena suicide bomber had made trips to Libya, Downing Street said last night, as intelligence agencies combed his connections with al-Qa'ida and Isil in his parents' homeland.

Salman Abedi (22) was born in Manchester and grew up in a tight-knit Libyan community that was known for its strong opposition to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

He had become radicalised recently and had worshipped at a local mosque that has, in the past, been accused of fundraising for jihadists.

The imam last night said that Abedi, who wore Islamic dress, had shown him "the face of hate" when he gave a talk warning on the dangers of so-called Isil.

He was born in 1994, the second youngest of four children. His parents were Libyan refugees who fled to the UK to escape Gaddafi.

His mother Samia Tabbal (50) and father Ramadan Abedi, a security officer, were both born in Tripoli but appear to have emigrated to London before moving to the Whalley Range area of south Manchester, where they had lived for at least a decade.

Abedi went to school locally and then to Salford University in 2014, where he studied business management before dropping out. His trips to Libya, where it is thought his parents returned in 2011 following Gaddafi's overthrow, are now subject to scrutiny.

A group of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived near the Abedi family in Whalley Range.

Read more: What we know about Salman Abedi, the man named as Manchester suicide bomber

Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor as leader of al-Qa'ida.

Azzouz, 48, an expert bomb-maker, was accused of running an al-Qa'ida network in eastern Libya. 'The Telegraph' reported in 2014 that Azzouz had 200 to 300 militants under his control.

Another member of the Libyan community in Manchester, Salah Aboaoba, told Channel 4 News in 2011 that he had been fundraising for LIFG while in the city. Aboaoba had claimed he had raised funds at Didsbury mosque, the one attended by Abedi. The mosque vehemently denied the claim.

Mohammed Saeed El-Saeiti, the imam at the Didsbury mosque, yesterday branded Abedi a dangerous extremist. "Salman showed me the face of hate after my speech on Isis," he said. "He used to show me the face of hate and I could tell this person does not like me. It's not a surprise to me."

At the Abedi family home in Elsmore Road, a nondescript red-brick terrace, neighbours said Abedi had become increasingly devout and withdrawn.

Lina Ahmed, 21, said: "They are a Libyan family and they have been acting strangely. A couple of months ago he [Salman] was chanting the first kalma [Islamic prayer] really loudly in the street. He was chanting in Arabic."

Police and special forces blasted down the door of the family home at 11.30am yesterday. Locals said two helicopters and at least 30 police officers arrived for the raid.

Irish Independent

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