Thursday 14 December 2017

Manchester attack: Fears Salman Abedi may have made other bombs ease as searches continue

Salman Abedi. (AP)
Salman Abedi. (AP)

Lizzie Dearden

Fears that Salman Abedi may have manufactured other bombs are easing as police track down chemicals and equipment bought by the Manchester attacker.

The Independent understands that all bomb-making materials have been accounted for in ongoing searches, with the discoveries contributing to the decision to lower the threat level from critical back to severe.

Fresh searches have been carried out in Banff Road, Rusholme, following previous operations in the nearby Curry Mile.

The street is linked to Wilmslow Road – the area where investigators said Abedi repeatedly returned in the lead-up to the attack with a blue suitcase they are attempting to recover.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed the search in Banff Road was linked to the bombing but did not release any findings or announce new arrests.

A bomb disposal unit was deployed at the scene as a precaution but was later stood down, while a police cordon remained in place.

The origin of the device Abedi used to massacre 22 people at Manchester Arena is of particular concern.

He is believed to have used at least three properties to prepare the bomb, which contained the same homemade TATP explosives used by Isis in the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Haras Rafiq, CEO of the Quilliam counter-extremism group, said Abedi appears to have purchased more equipment “than would make just one device”.

“One of the things police will be looking at is how did he learn how to make it – was he taught, did he go online, did he learn here or in Libya?” he told The Independent.

“That has been one of the key lines of investigation from the beginning.”

His former landlord said a flat in Blackley had smelled of chemicals, telling investigators the suspected Isis supporter told him he was “flying abroad” six weeks ago, when he left for Libya.

The 37-year-old landlord is believed to be one of three men released without charge on Tuesday, alongside two men aged 20 and 24 said to be Abedi’s cousins.

A metal rod, traces of chemicals and squares of cut-up material were found at Abedi’s flat in Blackley, while unused chemicals were found at his former home in Fallowfield.

The bomber is believed to have made his final preparations in another flat in Granby Row, central Manchester, where he spent his final hours.

Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson, head of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit, said Abedi himself purchased “the core components”, following reports he had visited DIY shops in Manchester.

“It is vital that we make sure that he is not part of a wider network and we cannot rule this out yet,” he added.

“There remain a number of things that concern us about his behaviour prior to the attack and those of his associates which we need to get to the bottom of.”

Investigators have been attempting to piece together Abedi's movements between when he arrived back in Manchester from Libya on 18 May, and the bombing four days later.

Police have been tracking his last movements using CCTV, phone calls and other data exposing his interactions, amid questions over how he slipped through the net.

The 22-year-old had a “relatively minor” criminal record as a teenager, when he was linked to gangs, smoked cannabis and drank, but he was not known to police for holding extremist views.

He appeared on police logs in 2012 over offences of theft, receiving stolen goods and assault and was known to MI5, which has launched an internal review amid reports it was warned about Abedi's plans.

Abedi had been reported to the counter-terror hotline and banned from a local mosque, but was not known to Prevent, the Government's voluntary counter-radicalisation scheme.

Police are appealing for information on sightings of Abedi with the blue suitcase between 18 and 22 May, releasing an image of him with the luggage taken from CCTV in Manchester city centre on the day of the attack.

It killed 22 people as they left an Ariana Grande concert, including seven children, and injured dozens more.

The singer is to return to Manchester on Sunday alongside artists including Coldplay, Justin Bieber and Take That.

They will perform a tribute concert at Old Trafford, with all proceeds going towards the We Love Manchester fund set up for victims and their families.

NHS England announced 50 people are still being treated across eight hospitals, including 17 patients in critical care.

Greater Manchester Police said 11 suspects remain in custody as part of the probe into the worst terror attack on British soil since the 7/7 bombings.

Anyone with information is asked to call the anti-terror hotline anonymously on 0800 789321 or send images and footages to police by visiting the UK Police Image Appeal website.

Independent News Service

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