Manchester bomber may have trained with Libyan militia, inquiry told

By Amy Walker

The Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi may have trained and fought with Islamist militia in Libya, an inquiry into the attack has been told.

Abedi’s cousin Abdurrahman Forjani told police that he had travelled to Libya during the 2011 revolution and got a job “locating Gaddafi supporters”.

He added that Abedi had been “involved in raids during that period, and had shown him photographs of military vehicles, weapons and rocket launchers”.

Forjani said that when Abedi returned to the UK around nine months later in 2012, his parents had warned him to stay away from him.

The details were revealed during evidence given by DCS Simon Barralough of Greater Manchester police, who was the senior investigating officer into the 22 May 2017 attack in which 22 people were killed.

The inquiry also heard that Abedi had been linked to a counter-terror investigation into a woman who was stopped from flying out of the UK from Heathrow airport in February 2017.

Among photographs found on a device when her home was searched was one of a male with a strong resemblance to Abedi, carrying a rifle and an insignia of Libyan Islamist militia group the February 17th Martyrs Brigade behind him on a wall.

The likeness, which was established after the bombing in 2018, was said to be “startling”. The image was uploaded in August 2011, when Abedi was 16 years old.

Images also taken in 2011 of Salman Abedi and his younger brother, Hashem, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for his involvement in plotting the attack, showing them in military uniform, were found on a hard drive at their home in Fallowfield after the bombing.

Barraclough said it indicated the brothers did receive some level of military training and it was “not unreasonable” to suggest that Salman Abedi may have either fought with the February 17th Martyrs Brigade during the Libyan uprising or attended a training camp, or both.

He also confirmed that police probing the attack still want to question Abedi’s parents, Ramadan Abedi, 53, and Samia Tabbal, 52, as suspects in their investigation. The pair flew to Libya from the UK with their sons in April 2017 and have not returned since.

Ramadan’s fingerprints were found in a Nissan Micra used by the brothers to store explosives, while Samia is wanted for questioning about terrorism financing.

Barraclough said it was not possible to deploy officers to Libya to speak to them because of the country’s “significantly hostile environment” for UK officials to operate in.