The UK is seeking the extradition of the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi who is being held by a militia group in Libya, police said Wednesday.
Hashem Abedi travelled with his brother to Libya in April before Salman returned alone to carry out the nail bomb attack on a pop concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22 that left 22 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Police believe that Salman Abedi carried out the suicide bomb attack on his own and was not part of a wider network, but said they wanted to interview his brother in connection with the attack.
Police have secured an arrest warrant for 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion and passed on an extradition request to Libya on Wednesday, according to police.
“We are grateful for the Libyan authorities considering this request,” said Russ Jackson, a senior counter-terrorist officer with the police in Manchester.
The Abedi family, originally from Libya, fled during the dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi and sought asylum in the United Kingdom. Both brothers were born in Manchester and went to school there.
An extradition agreement between the two countries was agreed in 2008 but the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime in 2011 has seen the country split between feuding factions.
The extradition request has been made to the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), according to police.
Hashem and his father were arrested in May by a militia in Tripoli on suspicion of having links with ISIL. A photograph was released by the Special Deterrence Force after his arrest. The arrests came shortly after his father, Ramadan, told reporters that he was “really shocked” at hearing the news of the attack by Salman.
“As we were discussing news of similar attacks earlier, he was always against those attacks, saying there’s no religious justification for them,” he told Bloomberg. “I don’t understand how he’d have become involved in an attack that led to the killing of children.”
The extradition is far from certain with no known cases of suspects being sent to the UK following the signing of the extradition agreement. The deal followed the failed attempt to bring back to Britain a suspect wanted for the fatal shooting of a police officer from inside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.
Ramadan has been released from prison in Tripoli, while plans were in place to put Hashem on trial in Libya, according to reports.
“We have been clear from the outset that we are determined to do everything in our power to ensure that those suspected of being responsible for the Manchester attack are brought to justice in the UK,” said Security Minister Ben Wallace.
The bomb was put in a tin and placed in a rucksack filled with nuts, bolts and shrapnel and detonated in the foyer of the venue following a concert by the US singer Ariana Grande. Some of the dead were up to 22 metres from Abedi, who also died in the explosion.
The attack left more than 500 people injured or “profoundly traumatised” said Mr Jackson, with 16 people suffering the most severe injuries including loss of limbs, paralysis and very serious facial injuries. Two people remain in hospital.
A total of 23 people have been arrested as part of the inquiry including another Abedi brother but nobody has been charged with any crime. The investigation is working through 16,000 hours of security camera footage and eight million lines of telephone communications data to work out if anyone else was involved, police said.