TRIPOLI – The father and a brother of Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi have been arrested in Tripoli, with counter-terror officials stating the attacker’s brother knew about the plan.
Hashem Abedi, 20, an engineering student in Manchester University “was aware of all the details” of his brother’s plans to attack the arena, Libyan security forces said in a statement. Hashem Abedi was also arrested in Tripoli on Tuesday on suspicion of links to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Libyan counter terrorism police had been tracking 20-year-old Hashem for about six weeks.
Ramadan Abedi had proclaimed his son’s innocence, but had himself been branded an extremist by a Libyan security official.
Salman Abedi died in the blast at the arena and his older brother, Ismail, is thought to be in custody after a police and special forces raid on their Manchester home.
Speaking from Tripoli, Ramadan Abedi confirmed that his son had recently returned from Libya and told AP: “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us.”
However, soon after he was quoted by the press Ramadan Abedi was himself accused of having extremist links.
Former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun told AP he knew the senior Abedi personally and that he had been a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) during the 1990s.
When the LIFG disbanded Abedi became associated with the Salafi Jihadi movement, an extreme strand of political Islam from which both Al-Qaeda and, later, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) sprang.
Haroun said Abedi was better known in Libya as Abu Ismail. Several LIFG-linked Libyans appear to have settled in the same area of Manchester as the Abedi family.
Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, who left Manchester to go to Libya and run a 200-300-strong militant network for Osama Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Azzouz is reported to be an expert bomb-maker. Salman Abedi, who was born in Britain, is also reported to have visited Syria and was known to both UK and French intelligence agencies.
Hashem Abedi, Salman’s younger brother, was arrested in Tripoli on Wednesday afternoon.