One year on from the Manchester bombing, British hopes that the only surviving suspect in the terror attack may be extradited from Libya have increased after the militia holding him was officially incorporated into state security apparatus.
Hashem Abedi, 20, was arrested by a group known as the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) days after his brother carried out a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester and has since been held in a prison near Tripoli airport.
The group reported that at the time of his arrest Mr Abedi admitted to being a member of ISIS and acknowledged involvement in the bombing.
However, the effort to extradite him is facing difficulties after it was revealed that, as a dual national with both British and Libyan citizenship, he could request not to be extradited under Libyan law.
A source close to Libya’s attorney general told the Daily Mail: “It is important to note, if the accused has objections to being handed over to Britain and requests not to be handed over, then under Libyan law his request must be considered.”
Hashem Abedi is suspected of having facilitated the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Evening News Arena last May.
The bombing killed 22 and injured up to 800.
British police believe he helped his brother, Salman Abedi, buy the materials used to construct the explosive device used in the attack.
The Salafist–leaning Special Deterrence Force was officially disbanded earlier this month and incorporated in to the Tripoli government’s security apparatus as the Deterrence Anti-Organised Crime and Terrorism Apparatus, qualifying the militia for government funds and ostensibly puling it under the state’s control.
Yet one Foreign Office source was sceptical that the militia, which was founded during the revolution against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, could be relied upon to extradite the suspect.
“It [SDF] has become a score-settling mechanism, rather than a political entity. It’s rag-tag - with elements of Salafism in there.”
Since 2017, the group had served as Tripoli’s primary policing and counter-terrorism force.
Noman Benotman, president of counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam foundation told The Times, that he understood that Mr Abedi was under the jurisdiction of Libya’s attorney general, something that would appear to smooth the path to an extradition to the UK.
Mr Abedi’s extradition to Britain was requested by UK prosecutors in October last year. At the time, Libyan authorities said they were considering the request, but no further action was taken.
Greater Manchester Police last week remained upbeat that Mr Abedi could be extradited to the UK. “We are preparing for a trial”, Chief Constable Russ Jackson told reporters.
He added, that the ongoing process made it difficult to comment on the specifics of Mr Abedi’s case.
"Firstly we must respect the Libyan legal process and we are very grateful to them for considering our request.
"Secondly, it is vital that the court process is respected in this country and especially the right to a fair trial. It is because of this that we cannot comment on any specific detail of the case.”