World

Brother of Manchester Bomber Arrested in Libya Knew About Suicide Attack in Advance

RTX37KWY
A police officer stands outside a house in Manchester, England, on May 25. Andrew Yates/Reuters

The younger brother of Salman Abedi knew details of the Manchester Arena bombing prior to the attack and allegedly confessed to having links to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), authorities in the Libyan capital Tripoli have said in a statement following his arrest.

Hashem Abedi was arrested Wednesday by Tripoli’s Special Deterrent Forces, a paramilitary force nominally under the control of the Interior Ministry in the country's western capital. Authorities in Tripoli have also said they are holding Salman’s father, Ramadan Abedi, although the reasons for his detention were not disclosed.

In a brief statement released following the arrests, accompanied by a picture of Hashem Abedi, 20, the deterrent forces said he had last been in Britain in April 2017 and was in constant contact with Salman Abedi, who allegedly carried out a suicide bombing at a concert on Monday night in the northern English city of Manchester, killing 22 and injuring more than 60.

Read more: The Manchester bomber was a promising young man who went off the rails, says a religious leader who knew him

Salman Abedi, a British man of Libyan descent, reportedly spent three weeks in Libya before the attack—returning to the U.K. just days before detonating an explosive at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. German security sources told Focus magazine Salman Abedi flew home to Manchester via Düsseldorf before carrying out the bombing. According to the unnamed sources, he also previously flew from Frankfurt to the U.K. in 2015.

The Abedi family went into exile in the U.K. in the early 1990s, fleeing the regime of Muammar el-Qaddafi. They have lived in the Fallowfield area in south Manchester for more than 15 years.

In 2011, following the revolution to topple Qaddafi, Ramadan Abedi moved to Tripoli. His Facebook page shows that he returned to Manchester at least once in 2013, and The Guardian reported he stayed in Britain for 10 days in February 2017.

On Tuesday, residents in the area shared photographs of heavily armed police as forensic experts collected evidence from a local address. Greater Manchester Police later carried out a controlled explosion nearby. Police have said they have arrested eight individuals in Manchester linked to the attack.

The British Home Office declined Newsweek’s request for comment on whether it had made extradition requests for Hashem and Ramadan Abedi. The British government also declined to comment on whether or not the U.K. requested the pair’s arrest.

Libyan local media has reported Ramadan Abedi was once a member of a now-defunct Al-Qaeda-linked organization known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. A privately owned Jordan-based outlet reported it had been given Qaddafi-era intelligence documents listing him as a known LIFG fighter. The Guardian reported that he fought during the 2011 revolution alongside Islamist brigades.

The LIFG is banned in the United Kingdom, although many of its members fled to the country following the group’s failed assassination attempt on Qaddafi during the 1990s. The group fostered ties with Osama bin Laden during the insurgency against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Now, many of its former members hold senior government positions in the internationally backed government in Libya’s western capital. One former LIFG fighter, Mohammed al-Amari, is a member of Tripoli’s U.N.-backed Presidential Council.

Mohamed Eljarh, nonresident fellow for the Atlantic Council, tells Newsweek that former LIFG members helped create strong ties between Manchester and Tripoli after the Libyan revolution. “Many of the people in Manchester, particularly the Islamists, participated in the fighting against Qaddafi and are trying to move back to Libya particularly if they are linked to some powerful figures,” he says.

Eljarh explains that there are still links between nonviolent former members of the LIFG and those who are still willing to share their experience fighting abroad. “If [they] no longer believe in a violent jihadist path, they still may have people in their circles, friends from the past who have those tendencies or could easily open the door for someone,” he says.

Editor's Pick
Gary Cohn

Gary Cohn Calls Shutdown 'Completely Wrong'

“I don’t understand what the outcome is here, and I don’t understand where we’re going with it,” said Cohn. “I’m confused as to what the White House’s strategy is on this a little bit.”