Manchester bomber’s friend reveals ‘farewell phone call' from Salman Abedi before atrocity

Alzoubare Mohammed denies Abedi showed signs of extremism before attack

Mourners place flowers and other tributes in Albert Square, Manchester, to commemorate a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in the city in 2017. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A close friend of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi has said he initially found it hard to believe Abedi was behind the atrocity.

Alzoubare Mohammed, who went with Abedi to visit a convicted terrorist in prison, said he received a “farewell phone call” days before the attack.

On Monday, Mr Mohammed, who was born in London, gave evidence to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, which is examining the circumstances behind the attack and whether it could have been prevented.

The bombing killed 23 people, including Abedi, and wounded more than 1,000 at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

Mr Mohammed moved to Manchester in 2014 and became acquainted with Abedi because their fathers were members of the city's Libyan community.

Mr Mohammed and Abedi had mutual friends, including Ahmed Taghdi, who helped Abedi to buy the car the bomb components were stored in, and Abdalraouf Abdallah.

Abdallah has been accused of having a role in radicalising Abedi.

The inquiry heard that Abdallah made three lengthy phone calls to Mr Mohammed in the days before the attack.

They were “conversations with the lads” and the calls and prison visits were meant to raise Abdallah’s spirits, Mr Mohammed said.

“He would call all the time because he was bored in prison,” he said.

“We would talk about things that were going on outside.”

Abdallah, a British-Libyan dual citizen, was jailed in 2016 for helping four British citizens join ISIS fighters in Syria.

The inquiry was told that illicit phones were found on Abdallah in prison which revealed contact between him and Abedi.

Abdalraouf Abdallah, left, was visited in prison by Manchester bomber Salman Abedi.

The inquiry heard Abedi called Mr Mohammed from Libya five days before the attack.

“In hindsight, this was a farewell phone call,” he said.

“I was a good friend to him. He didn't say he was going to do anything. It was a general conversation.

“I asked him how was Libya and he asked me what's going on here and that was it.”

Mr Mohammed said the attack left him and other friends of Abedi in a “state of shock”.

“After the news said that it was Salman, we were shocked. Some of us were even questioning it because we thought he was still in Libya,” he said.

“At first there was disbelief, shock. That was the first reaction.”

Mr Mohammed said they never expressed extremist views.

The inquiry was told Mr Mohammed had been referred to the UK's Prevent programme, which is focused on deradicalisation, in 2016 over concerns his cousin was radicalising him.

“I’m confused. I know nothing about him trying to radicalise me,” he said.

The inquiry heard Mr Mohammed was arrested after the attack when police found drawings of swords, guns and tanks in his bag.

He told the inquiry these were “doodles” about Libya.

A photo released on the Facebook page of Libya's Ministry of Interior's Special Deterrence Force on May 24, 2017 claims to shows Hashem Abedi, the brother of the man suspected of carrying out the bombing in the British city of Manchester, after he was detained in Tripoli for alleged links to the Islamic State (IS) group. - Libya arrested a brother and father of Salman Abedi who is suspected of the bombing at a pop concert killing 22 people, including children on May 22, 2017. (Photo by HO / LIBYA'S SPECIAL DETERRENCE FORCE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / LIBYA'S SPECIAL DETERRENCE FORCE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Asked whether he had anything to do with the attack, he replied: “None whatsoever. I didn't even have knowledge or anything to do with this atrocity.”

He denied there were any signs Abedi was going through a life crisis.

“Not a crisis. He would distance himself. We wouldn't regularly see each other,” he said.

“We would think he was probably trying to be more religious and wouldn't want to be with us.”

Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem, was jailed last year for a minimum of 55 years after being convicted of 22 counts of murder for his role in helping his brother to prepare the attacks.

Officers discovered Hasham Abedi had claimed on a social media site that his hero was Osama bin Laden and an email address used by them translated as “we have come to slaughter".

Detective Superintendent Simon Barraclough said there were a number of factors that led to the brothers’ radicalisation.

“As the boys grew up, there has been a journey towards radicalisation,” he said.

“The two of them have probably fed off each other’s ideas and concepts.”

The inquiry heard Salman Abedi began hanging around with older Libyan men in the Manchester community and associating with Abdallah, and in 2016, they were left alone together when their mother left to go back to Libya.

Another brother, Ismail, who was never charged with any offence, was due to give evidence to the inquiry last month but has left the country with no indication of when he might return.

The inquiry is continuing.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:36 PM