December 8, 2020 Faith Matters

Bomber’s brother appeared to be ‘sympathetic to ideals of Isis’, inquiry told

Images recovered from the home of the older brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi indicated he was “sympathetic to the ideals of Isis”, a police chief has told a public inquiry.

Ismail Abedi, 27, was arrested the morning after the explosion which killed 22 people and injured hundreds at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 2017.

A search of his home recovered a disk drive containing a number of images that could be “considered supportive of an extremist mindset”, said Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, the senior investigating officer into the attack.

He said images of burnt bodies and one depicting an Isis flag with the words “I Pledge Allegiance” were on the device.

Other images showed Ismail and a young Salman Abedi holding weapons – assessed to have been taken outside of the UK – and a video lecture from the late preacher and senior al Qaida recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, the inquiry heard.

Another drive seized contained images of an armed Salman Abedi in camouflage clothing and a video file of his younger brother and other males firing weapons.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Mr Barraclough: “Your view in your statement was ‘there are indications that Ismail Abedi may have been aware of the radicalisation or changing opinions of Salman Abedi’?”

“Yes,” said the detective.

Mr Greaney went on: “And you added ‘in some respects it also appears that Ismail was sympathetic to the ideals of Isis as evidenced by the material discovered on his devices which were seized from his home address when he was arrested’?”

Mr Barraclough confirmed: “Yes.”

Mr Greaney said Ismail Abedi would be called to give evidence and would have the chance to offer explanations, although when the inquiry was opened it was said he had declined to answer questions on the basis it may tend to incriminate him.

The inquiry into the bombing heard Ismail Abedi was held in custody until June 5 2017 on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and was interviewed on 25 occasions.

The inquiry heard he told police he had concerns about Salman Abedi and their younger brother, Hashem – jailed for life this year for his part in the bomb plot – over them dropping out of their studies, had suspicions they were involved in fraud and members of the community had told him Hashem was taking drugs.

He raised those issues with their parents, Ramadan and Samia, who live in Libya, which caused “friction” with his brothers who he said changed phone numbers frequently and when he did contact them they would hang up, the inquiry heard.

Ismail Abedi went on to provide a prepared statement in which he denied any knowledge or involvement in his brother’s actions or in the radicalisation or assistance of Salman Abedi in relation to the attack, Manchester Manchester Magistrates’ Court was told.

Mr Barraclough confirmed Ismail Abedi was released without charge but he added: “You must understand that the investigation continues in relation to this and there will be further attempts by the investigation team to speak to Ismail Abedi in due course.”

Salman Abedi travelled to Libya during the 2011 revolution and obtained a job “locating Gaddafi supporters”, the inquiry heard.

His cousin, Abdurrahman Forjani, told police that Abedi had been “involved in raids during that period” and explained he had shown him photographs of military vehicles, weapons and rocket launchers.

When Abedi returned to the UK about nine months later in 2012, his cousin said he was told by his parents to stay away from him.

The inquiry also heard about Abedi’s link to a counter-terror investigation into a woman who was stopped from flying out of the UK from Heathrow Airport in February 2017.

Her home was searched and among photographs found on a device 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, established after the Arena attack, was said to be “startling” and the image was uploaded in August 2011 when Abedi was aged 16.

Images of Salman Abedi and his younger brother, Hashem, in military uniform, also taken in 2011, were found at their home in Fallowfield following the bombing.

Mr Barraclough said it indicated the two brothers did receive some level of military training and he also 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.

Read more: Manchester bomb-plotter held in jail with extremism separation unit