The parents of Manchester Arena terror bomber Salman Abedi are ‘keeping a low profile’ in Libya where they are under ‘constant’ surveillance by Libyan authorities, it has today been reported.
Ramadan Abedi and Samia Tabbal left the UK for Libya four weeks before their son carried out the deadly 2017 suicide bombing, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others.
Ramadan, who was arrested and later released by Libyan authorities in the awake of the attack, remains a suspect in the UK police investigation, along with wife Samia.
A Libyan national, Ramadan fought against the Gaddafi regime with a militant group once designated a terror organisation by the US.
Yesterday, at the inquiry into the attack, a senior director general of MI5, said Islamist bomber Abedi was ‘likely’ to have been influenced in his views by his father.
Salman’s brother, Hashem Abedi, is in prison for life for assisting in the terror attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. His other brother, Ismail, recently left the UK after being called to give evidence at the inquiry in the attack.
The claim was made as the security chief, referred to only as Witness J, also told the inquiry that there were missed opportunities to stop Salman at Manchester Airport four days before the attack.
Ramadan Abedi and Samia Tabbal left the UK for Libya four weeks before their son Salman (pictured left) carried out the deadly 2017 suicide bombing, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others. Ramadan (pictured right), who was arrested and later released by Libyan authorities in the awake of the attack, remains a suspect in the UK police investigation, along with wife Samia
Salman’s brother, Hashem Abedi, is in prison for life for assisting in the terror attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. His other brother, Ismail, recently left the UK after being called to give evidence to the inquiry in the attack.
Who are the Abedi’s?: The family who refuse to co-operate with an inquiry into the murder of 22 innocent people
Hashem Abedi helped his suicide bomber brother Salman plan the sick attack on 22 innocent people attending an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.
He helped build the bomb which his brother detonated at the concert.
Manchester-born Abedi was in Libya when the bomb went off and was arrested there and extradited to the UK.
Prior to the attack, the college drop-out, who worked as a takeaway driver, started asking the owner of the restaurant he was working for if he could take the metal vegetable oil cans away for scrap.
Hashem and Salman started using them to test homemade explosives they were experimenting with at their property on Elsmore Road, Manchester.
Hashem was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 55 years, after being convicted of 22 counts of murder.
He has refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
The father of the pair responsible for the Manchester Arena bombings is a Libyan-British national who fought against the Gaddafi regime in with militant group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – which was designated a terrorist organisation by the US. It was removed from the UK’s proscribed terror group list in November 2019.
He was arrested in Libya alongside Hashem, but was released without charge.
In Manchester, Ramadan, worked as a security officer, and was assigned the role of muezzin at Didsbury mosque and calling out prayer five times a day.
In 2011, Ramadan he travelled back to Libya to fight in a civil war, reports the Guardian.
Shortly before he was arrested in Libya in 2017 he ‘condemned’ terrorist attacks on civilians.
He still lives in Libya and has refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
Samia Abedi is the mother of the brothers involved in the Manchester Arena bombing.
Little is known about her background, other than that she lived with Ramadan in south Manchester for more than a decade and that all of the pair’s children were enrolled in schools in the UK.
She is known to have left the UK in 2016, though continued to receive tax credits, child and housing benefit of about £550 a week, even though she left the UK for Libya in October 2016.
During Hashem’s trial, it was heard how her two sons used her bank card to buy a battery and other items before the 2017 attack.
Her bank statements showed a series of large cash withdrawals of between £50 and £300 each month in the UK after she left the country.
She still lives in Libya and has refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
Little is known about Joamana Abedi, the sister of the pair involved in the Manchester Arena bombings.
The 21-year-old is known to be living in Libya and has refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
In 2017, she gave an interview after the attack in which she described her brother as ‘kind and loving and that she was surprised by what he did.
She said he may have carried out the attack because he wanted revenge for US air strikes on Syria.
The eldest of the brothers, Ismail Abedi up until recently was still living in Manchester.
He has previously apologised for the actions of his brothers.
In an interview with Sky News he said he had ‘no idea his brothers had taken this path’.
‘I want to apologise on behalf of my family to the victims, for all the pain Hashem and Salman caused,’ he said.
On his brother’s life sentence, Ismail, who has a wife and child, added: ‘I’m glad this has happened because I can put it all behind me, get on with my life and look after my family.’
But he has refused to co-operate with the inquiry into the attack. He asked to strike a deal with officials for immunity from prosecution in return for his evidence at the inquiry – a deal that was declined by officials. He left the UK days before he had been called to give evidence at the inquiry.
The bomber was was taken to Libya by his parents in April 2017 on a one-way ticket, but returned to the UK on May 18 2017, four days before his attack.
Witness J agreed that Abedi should have been put on a ‘ports action list’ to alert the police when he returned from Libya.
‘It would have been the better course of action,’ he said.
‘We were relying on investigators to make judgements about who should go on to some form of ports action and we’ve since then standardised the approach.
‘I think that would have been a stronger process had we introduced it before then.’
Despite denying any knowledge of the attack, Ramadan is a suspect in the ongoing police investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing.
His fingerprints were found inside a car used by his sons to store explosives and bomb-making material. He and his wife have both refused to co-operate with the inquiry into the attack.
Ramadan is currently living with Samia in their family home on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli
Libya’s foreign minister Najla El-Mangoush told the BBC authorities in Libya and in Britain are in contact with the Abedi family.
Ms El-Mangoush, who is British born, told the broadcaster: ‘I think there is collaboration between the general attorney office, and some figures in England related to this issue
‘I am not sure if there is any positive outcome. We respect the judicial system and we don’t want to interfere, but also we are willing to collaborate from a political perspective if there is anything we can do from our side.’
Libya extradited Hashem Abedi to the UK in 2019. He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 55 years, for the murder of 22 people after he was found to have helped his brother in planning of the attack.
Yesterday, Witness J told the inquiry that it was ‘likely’ that Ramadan ‘shaped’ his son Salman’s extremist beliefs.
The MI5 officer also revealed how security services were aware that Salman had links to a serious crime gang in the city prior to the attack.
The inquiry heard from Witness J how MI5 came close to reopening an investigation into Salman’s terror links.
A meeting was due to take place nine days after Salman carried out the attack, the inquiry heard.
The evidence, given from behind a specially made wooden screen to protect the MI5 officer’s identity, was heard at the ongoing inquiry into the terror attack.
The inquiry is examining whether a probe into Salman should have been re-opened as a subject of interest in 2016, prior to the atrocity.
As part of the inquiry officials have been attempting to obtain evidence from friends and family members about Salman’s background and how he came to be radicalised.
The hearing had earlier heard how Salman’s brother, Ismail Abedi, had fled the country after being served a notice demanding he attend the inquiry.
He said he would only help the inquiry if he was given immunity from prosecution – a request that was rejected. Their brother, Hashem, has been jailed for life for helping Salman carry out the 2017 attack.
But asked about their father, Ramada, Witness J told the inquiry today: ‘Salman Abedi was assessed as likely his extreme views were informed by his father, Ramadan Abedi’.
Witness J also told the inquiry it was ‘reasonable’ not to re-open an investigation into Salman after two separate pieces of intelligence were received about him in the months before the attack.
Salman was in touch, directly and indirectly, with six different ‘subjects of interest’ in the years before the attack, officer said.
The senior officer also revealed that Abedi had links to a serious crime gang in the city.
Abedi was investigated as a ‘subject of interest’ himself in 2014 and briefly in 2015 and a meeting to decide whether to re-open his case was days away when he launched his attack.
The intelligence received in the months before the attack was assessed at the time to relate to ‘non-nefarious activity’ or ‘non-terrorist criminality’ on his part.
Paul Greaney QC, for the inquiry said that ‘in retrospect this intelligence was highly relevant to the planned attack, but the significance of it was not fully appreciated at the time.’
But Witness J told the inquiry: ‘This was fragments of the picture held at the time. In our post-attack work, looking back, we can see if was highly relevant to the planned attack.’
Asked if he would make the same assessment ‘not applying hindsight and judgment retrospectively’, the officer said: ‘In our view it was a reasonable judgment to make that he was not associated with terrorism and reasonable not to reopen the investigation on that basis.’
The officer, one of three director generals, gave evidence from inside a specially built wooden box to a court room at Manchester Magistrates Court, packed with members of the victims’ families and lawyers.
Earlier he told the inquiry: ‘We assess that Salman Abedi was part of a group of individuals in South Manchester who had links to a serious crime gang.’
The officer added: ‘The challenge for us is when individuals are involved in terrorism and crime, some of their behaviour and activity can look the same.
‘It can be difficult to distinguish, for example drug dealing and fraud from national security activity.’
Libya extradited Hashem (pictured) in 2019. He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 55 years, for the murder of 22 people for helping his brother in the attack
The family home in Libya where Salman Abedi spent his final days plotting the Manchester terror attack
Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was in contact with EIGHT MI5 ‘suspects’ in the years before carrying out terror attack, inquiry hears
The Manchester Arena bomber had contact with eight individuals who were ‘subjects of interest’ to MI5, the inquiry into the terror attack heard yesterday.
The revelation brought accusations from lawyers for the families of the blast victims that the intelligence agency had failed them.
‘You failed to protect these families and the public from a bomber,’ John Cooper QC told an MI5 witness. ‘On the most straightforward grounds, you failed.’
It came after the inquiry heard that the bomber, Salman Abedi, is ‘likely’ to have been indoctrinated into Islamist extremism by his own father.
The director-general of Counter Terrorism at MI5, known only as Witness J, told how those such as Abedi, 22, with a Libyan background, were exposed to individuals with extremist tendencies from their parents’ generation.
These include former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – which fought against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime and has been linked to Al Qaeda – who moved to Britain. Abedi’s father Ramadan has been linked with LIFG.
‘Salman Abedi was assessed as likely his extreme views were informed by his father, Ramadan Abedi,’ Witness J said. Asked by Paul Greaney QC, for the inquiry, if it was assessed that Ramadan Abedi was involved with the LIFG, the spy said: ‘I’m afraid I am not able to go into that in open [hearings].’
The eight ‘subjects of interest’ included one who was in Libya and one in prison.
Some were direct contacts while others were indirect. The MI5 witness did not name Abdalraouf Abdallah, a convicted terrorist recruiter whose name was revealed by the Press, and was visited by Abedi twice in prison.
The second visit occurred on the day Abedi ordered his first bomb-making chemicals and he also exchanged calls using an illicit phone on the day they were delivered. Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chairman has ruled that there is ‘centrally important material’ relevant to the question of whether MI5 could have prevented the attacks that cannot be revealed to the public.
The inquiry has previously heard there were 18 missed opportunities when the security services could have stopped Salman Abedi.
Beginning on December 2013, Abedi’s phone number was picked up as linked to ‘Subject of Interest A’ who was suspected of planning to travel to Syria to join the fighting.
He appeared again in 2015, this time after meeting on a number of occasions with ‘Subject of Interest B’ who was previously associated with al-Qaeda and being investigated for facilitating travel to Syria.
The final appearance was as an associated of ‘longstanding’ subject of investigation who had affiliations to a group in Libya, described as ‘Subject of Interest C.’
The second two individuals were said to have had a radicalising influence on Abedi but are not thought to have known about his attack plans.
Mr Greaney told the inquiry that ‘the security service’s general assessment on the intelligence picture as it stands is that no one other than Salman Abedi and Hashem Abedi’, his brother serving life in jail for helping building the bomb, ‘were knowingly involved in the attack plot.’
In October 2015, Abedi was thought to have had direct links to a senior ISIS figure in Libya and opened again as a subjects of interest but the case was closed the same day when it was found that the links were through a third person.
In April 2016, January 2017, and April 2017, Abedi was identified as a ‘contact of a contact’ with three individual subjects of interest – the first providing financial support to Syria, the second believed to previously have travel to Syria and the third allegedly facilitating travel to Syria.
On March 3 2017, Salman Abedi was one of 687 subjects of interest to hit a ‘priority indicator’ for his case to be re-opened as part of Operation Clematis, a result of information received a year earlier.
On May 1, three weeks before the attack, MI5 triaged Abedi’s case and decided it met the criteria to be re-opened, but he was correctly believed to be overseas, probably in Libya.
On May 8, Abedi was one of 26 individuals referred to Operation Daffodil for consideration of further ‘low level’ investigation into whether he had re-engaged with Islamist extremism.
His case was due to be considered by an MI5 team on May 31, nine days after the attack, but the meeting was ‘tragically overtaken by events,’ Mr Greaney told the inquiry.
Witness J said the Clematis process ‘was a relatively new process designed to assess the risk of individuals not being investigated.’
Running the process on closed subjects of interest too frequently would ‘potentially have a had an effect on priority investigations’ he added.
The officer described how a report by the Joint Analysis and Terrorism Centre (JTAC), a part of MI5, in 2010 highlighted the ‘close proximity between violent extremism and criminal gangs in Manchester.
Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chairman has ruled that there is ‘centrally important material’ relevant to the question of whether MI5 could have prevented the attacks that cannot be revealed to the public.
Salman Abedi was seen ‘adjusting wiring’ underneath his clothes in the moments leading up to the devastating terror attack which left 22 people dead on May 22, 2017
A total of 22 people, many of them children, died in the terror attack at the Manchester Arena on May 22 2017. Pictured: Armed police stand guard outside the arena following the terror attack in 2017
The terror attack claimed 22 lives at Manchester Arena and injured hundreds more
As a result, for the first time in an inquest or inquiry since 9/11, some of the hearings will take place behind closed doors.
The inquiry is examining whether Salman Abedi should have been re-opened as a subject of interest in 2016, in light of what was known by MI5 and police at that time.
A second issue will be whether Abedi should have been re-opened as a subject of interest in the first few months of 2017 in response to information received on two occasions.
The last issue is whether Abedi should have been put on a ‘ports action’ list in 2017 which would have alerted police to his return from Libya, four days before the attack
The inquiry continues.