Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people at the Manchester Arena last year during an Ariana Grande concert, was rescued from Libya by the Royal Navy in August 2014 it has been revealed.
Three years before his heinous attack, he and his younger brother, Hashem, were part of a group of more than 100 British citizens who were rescued from the war-torn country and brought to Malta on the HMS Enterprise, from where they were flown home to Britain the Daily Mail said.
A Whitehall source told the newspaper that “for this man to have committed such an atrocity on UK soil after we rescued him from Libya was an act of utter betrayal”
Abedi, who was 19 at the time, was known to MI5 when he went to Libya during a gap year from studying at Manchester College, but security services closed his case in July 2014.
In the same month a bloc of Islamist politicians and sympathetic fighters, upset over dismal election results, attacked Tripoli International Airport in an effort to seize it from a rival militia dominated by troops from the town of Zintan.
Salman Abedi and his brother were evacuated soon after as fighting spilled onto the airport. The Royal Navy was then tasked with evacuating British nationals as Libya was declared a full-blown war-zone.
“He was a British citizen so it was our job to safeguard him. Salman was one of many people in that mix and we absolutely had to evacuate him. He was not a threat at the time and it was in a very different context,” a British official said.
The coalition of mainly Misratan and Tripoli Islamists seized and destroyed the airport weeks later. It sparked a bloody civil war and its effects continue to reverberate around Libya.
The two brothers had travelled back and forth between their hometown of Manchester and the Libyan capital of Tripoli because their parents, Ramadan and Samia, had returned to live in the North African state.
Ramadan joined the 2011 uprising against long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi but there have been disputes as to whether his two sons joined in. Relatives have insisted the two were largely in neighbouring Tunisia.Two fellow students, however, who attended Manchester College alongside him before his 2014 evacuation said that they had called anti-terrorism police to warn about his extremist views.
Gaddafi-era intelligence files appear to show their father was a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militant faction formed in the 1990’s with links to Al-Qaeda.
Salman Abedi detonated a home-made bomb in the foyer of the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017 killing 22, including seven children. The day after his brother Hashem was arrested by a powerful pro-government anti-crime brigade known as Rada or the Special Deterrence Force.
Hashem continues to be held at a Rada-prison in the environs of Metiga International Airport, Tripoli’s sole flight hub, with 2,500 captives that range from drug dealers, to rival militia fighters and ISIS members.
He is accused of aiding his brother and involvement plans to murder the former British ambassador Peter Millet and UN envoy Martin Kobler.