The Manchester bomber was repeatedly flagged to the authorities over his extremist views, but was not stopped by officers, it emerged Wednesday night.
Counter Terrorism agencies were facing questions after it emerged Salman Abedi told friends that “being a suicide bomber was okay”, prompting them to call the Government’s anti-terrorism hotline.
Sources suggest that authorities were informed of the danger posed by Abedi on at least five separate occasions in the five years prior to the attack on Monday night.
The authorities were also aware that Abedi’s father was linked to a well-known militant Islamist group in Libya, which is proscribed in Britain. Abedi also had links to several British-based jihadis with Isil connections.
Yesterday his father was detained by Libyan militia in the capital Tripoli while the suicide bomber’s two brothers have separately been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences.
The apparent lapses emerged on a day of heightened police activity as the hunt for Abedi’s terror cell intensified.
Officers raided the suspected ‘bomb factory’ where it is feared he made the device before the attack.
Last night the Home Secretary conceded that Abedi was known the intelligence services, while counter terrorism officials were braced for criticism over the apparent failures
It came as:
- It emerged security services are examining links between Abedi and an expert bomb-maker who had lived in the same street in Manchester
- Leaked pictures last night emerged in the US of fragments of the bomb, prompting a diplomatic row between the Downing Street and the US security services.
- Britain was placed on security lock down with soldiers on the streets and several high-profile events cancelled
- The general election will resume with Ukip’s general election manifesto launch today
- A minute’s silence will be held on Thursday morning at 11am in memory of the victims
- A female police officer was revealed as one of the bomb victims, as further identities emerged
The missed opportunities to catch Abedi were beginning to mount up last night. The Telegraph has spoken to a community leader who said that Abedi was reported two years ago “because he thought he was involved in extremism and terrorism”.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “People in the community expressed concerns about the way this man was behaving and reported it in the right way using the right channels.
“They did not hear anything since.”
Two friends of Abedi also became so worried they separately telephoned the police counter-terrorism hotline five years ago and again last year.
“They had been worried that ‘he was supporting terrorism’ and had expressed the view that ‘being a suicide bomber was ok’,” a source told the BBC.
Akram Ramadan, 49, part of the close-knit Libyan community in south Manchester, said Abedi had been banned from Didsbury Mosque after he had confronted the Imam who was delivering an anti-extremist sermon.
Mr Ramadan said he understood that Abedi had been placed on a “watch list” because the mosque reported him to the authorities for his extremist views.
A well-placed source at Didsbury Mosque confirmed it had contacted the Home Office’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme as a result.
A US official also briefed that members of Abedi’s own family had contacted British police saying that he was “dangerous”, but again the information does not appear to have been acted upon.
Abedi’s own family background might also have been a red flag to authorities. His father was a member of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
Yet Abedi was able to travel frequently between the UK and Libya, where it is feared he trained in bombmaking and possibly travelled to Syria.
His youngest brother, Hisham – who is photographed on social media wielding an automatic rifle – was yesterday arrested by the Libyans who suspect him of knowing about the Manchester plot in advance and plotting his own attack in Tripoli.
A spokesman for the Libyan authorities told BBC2’s Newsnight that one of Abedi’s final acts before the murders was to ring his mother. The spokesman said: “His brother felt there was something going on there in Manchester and he thought his brother would do something like bombing or attack. So after that, he told us, ‘Having internet, I see the attack in Manchester and I knew that’s my brother’.”
The spokesman added that Libyan authorities were aware of Abedi going to the capital of Tripoli on April 18 and believed he stayed for two or three weeks.
He revealed that Abedi’s younger brother Hashim had been investigated for about a month and a half over suspicions that he was linked to IS.
“We were not quite sure about this, but when we arrested and we asked him, he told us, ‘I have ideology with my brother’. Hashim told us, ‘I know everything about my brother, what he was doing there in Manchester’.”
US authorities said Abedi was known to them prior to the atrocity while France’s interior minister said the 22-year-old had “proven” links with Islamic State and that both British and French intelligence services had information that the attacker had been in Syria.
Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, disclosed that the intelligence services had been aware of Abedi, who had only in the past few weeks returned to the UK after visiting Libya.
Rudd told Sky News: “We do know that he was known up to a point to the intelligence services.”
Ramadan Abedi, the suicide bomber’s father who lives in Tripoli, gave a series of interviews yesterday in which he denied his son was to blame.
Mr Abedi told Bloomberg: “I was really shocked when I saw the news, I still don’t believe it.
“He was always against those attacks, saying there’s no religious justification for them. I don’t understand how he’d have become involved in an attack that led to the killing of children.”
But a friend of the family said Abedi’s parents had become so concerned about his behaviour they had ordered him to leave the UK and live with them in Libya.
Adel Elghrani said: “The father was so concerned he confiscated his passport. But then Salman went to his mother and said that he wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and she gave him his passport back and he came to England instead.”