“The question needs to be asked: why was the Manchester bombing allowed to happen?”
Paul F. — UK
At about 2230 on Monday evening, 22 May, Salman Abedi exploded an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Foyer of the Manchester Arena, killing at least 22 people and seriously injuring many more. What do we know so far? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
A friend from the UK emailed me his thoughts on the Manchester bombing. Paul F. has a Master of Science (MSc) in Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies awarded by The University of East London in 2008. He is an independent researcher in politics and terrorism. He worked for 24 years for the British Council and in diplomatic posts abroad.
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What do we know so far?
The IED appears to have been detonated by a home-made, but complex electronic hand-held push-button detonator. The IED seems to have been made up of plastic explosive in a metal tube packed with shrapnel to maximise injuries. The explosion seems to have been timed to coincide with the end of a concert by US performer Ariana Grande at the moment when the 21000 mostly young people in the audience would be leaving the concert hall and passing through the venue where many had arranged to meet their parents.
There appears to have been almost free access to the foyer of the Arena from outside the venue and many of the victims were the parents of young people who had been attending a concert by US performer Ariana Grande. The parents were arriving to collect their children. It may have been easy for Salman Abedi to walk into the foyer from the street unchecked.
Experts believe that it is highly unlikely that Salman Abedi could have constructed such a complex weapon on his own and that it is very unlikely that Da’esh/IS would allow anyone with such skills to become a suicide bomber. It seems most likely that Salman Abedi was an expendable “drone” rather than a skilled bomb-maker. It may be that there are other Da’esh/IS terrorists in the UK planning other attacks.
Salman Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994. His parents had fled from Libya in the early 90s, first to London and then to Manchester where they lived among the Libyan community in Manchester which had established itself mostly as refugees from Libya in the 90s and earlier. Many of these refugees were supporters and former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group (LIFG) which became affiliated to Al Qaeda.
Abedi’s parents and older brother had returned to Libya permanently some time after Gaddafi’s death and Salman had visited at least twice. He returned from his last visit only a few days before the bombing. He was said to be very religious and attended the Didsbury mosque which has been linked to previous Islamist fundraising and radicalisation.
Media reports suggest that Abedi’s father, Ramadan, had worked as a security officer of some kind in the Gaddafi government but became an opponent of the regime and joined the LIFG before leaving Libya to settle in the UK. Ramadan Abedi and some of his family returned to Libya to fight for the LIFG in the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi.
The BBC reported that Ramadan Abedi was working as a “security official” for one the rival governments in Tripoli along with his elder son Hashem. Yesterday afternoon (24 May) both Hashem and his father were seized and detained by one of the militias in Tripoli and accused of being linked to Da’esh/IS and of planning terrorist attacks in Libya. It is not clear whether their arrest was at the request of the British authorities.
The police have said that Salman was “known to” the security services. The BBC is reporting that there had been at least 5 reports to the police and MI5 by people who knew Salman Abedi, that his behaviour was giving cause for concern about his radical Islamist beliefs.
In fact, it seems inconceivable that he was not VERY well known to the security services. On arrival in the UK as a refugee in the early 1990’s Ramadan Abedi would have been very closely examined and debriefed. It is likely that his movements on returning to Libya would have been closely watched and it is possible that he could have acted as a source for MI6.
His son Salman, as a regular visitor to Libya, would have been closely watched. The French authorities reported that they had been told by their UK counterparts that as well as frequent visits to Libya, Salman Abedi had also recently visited Syria. This, too, would have raised alarms with UK security services. Is it possible he was an asset who was playing for both sides at the same time?
The British Secret Intelligence service known as MI6 has long had links with the Islamist LIFG. According to MI5 whistle-blower David Shayler, MI6 paid the LIFG many thousands of pounds to finance an assassination attempt against Colonel Gaddafi in 1996. The attempt failed, killing civilians and military personnel.
The question needs to be asked: why was the Manchester bombing allowed to happen?
Tonight (May 26 2017), the BBC is reporting that Ramadan Abedi, Salman’s father, met regularly with Abu Qatada when he lived in the UK.
Note: It has been widely suggested that Abu Qatada had at times been a MI5 source, although he was eventually imprisoned in London and then deported back to Jordan.
The New York times published a series of photographs on May 24 2017:
‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK government sent British-Libyans to fight Gaddafi — Middle East Eye
Manchester Bombing — What do we know so far?