Manchester Arena bomber's father played 'significant' role in radicalising sons

Images show Ramadan Abedi and his children posing with weapons

The Libyan father of Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber, played a "significant" role in the radicalisation of his children, an inquiry has heard.

Suicide bomber Abedi killed 22 people and injured more than 1,000 when he detonated a bomb at the venue at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

His younger brother Hasham was sentenced to jail last year for helping to plot the attack.

The Manchester Arena Inquiry, which is investigating the circumstances of the attack and whether any opportunities to prevent it were missed, is examining how the Abedis became radicalised.

On Tuesday, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, who led the police investigation into the bombing, told the hearing their father, Ramadan Abedi, played a "significant" role in their radicalisation.

He said the changes in the brothers' behaviour coincided with convicted ISIS recruiter Abdalraouf Abdallah becoming more involved in their lives.

Ramadan Abedi, who is believed to be in Libya, has refused to co-operate with the inquiry and is wanted for questioning by the British authorities. His fingerprints were found in a newly purchased car used to store explosives while his son was in Libya in the weeks before the attack.

The inquiry was shown a series of images of the Abedi family posing with military weapons from rocket launchers to AK-47s.

Some of the photos were recovered from a device belonging to the eldest brother, Ismail Abedi.

They showed him posing with his father holding weapons and pointing at ISIS books. Other images were of Salman and Hasham holding rocket-propelled grenades.

Pete Weatherby QC, representing some of the bereaved families, told the hearing that the images put "flesh on the bones" in terms of the "level of military hardware these boys were involved with".

The hearing was told the device, which contained ISIS information and recruitment details as well as images, was first checked when Ismail was stopped on his return to Britain from a honeymoon in Bali in 2015.

He had claimed it was his wife's device and he had not accessed it, however, a search revealed his email had been used and there were conversations with online dating chats with girls which were also linked to his phone.

"There is no doubt in my mind he used it," Mr Barraclough said.

"It was a blatant lie." Mr Barraclough said it could be construed that Ismail "had a very unhealthy interest in ISIS".

"That was at one end of the spectrum," he said. "Clearly at the other end of the suspicion spectrum was that interest had developed into something more actionable."

A review of this evidence began in January and is continuing, he said.

Ismail, who was never charged with any offence, was to give evidence to the inquiry but has left the country and failed to attend the hearing last month.

The inquiry was told Ismail was teaching Arabic to young children at Manchester Islamic Centre, a mosque attended by the family and Salman Abedi, from 2014 to 2017 and he had attended the mosque on the night of the bombing.

Fawzi Haffar, chairman of the trustees at Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, said he had been vetted by a headteacher at the mosque.

"Our headteacher, who is Libyan, would make sure he was suitable and would do a background check," Mr Haffar said.

"I guess he would have known his father and thought this person was fine."

Chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders, said Ismail appeared to be someone who "had a pretty extremist mental state".

"He had things like beheadings on his phone," Sir John said.

"If you had known, I'm guessing, you wouldn't have him teaching vulnerable children?"

Mr Haffar agreed.

The Abedi family, staunch opponents of Muammar Qaddafi, fled his regime and settled in the north-west English city of Manchester in 1994, where they continued their opposition with like-minded emigres.

In August 2011, Ramadan travelled to Tripoli with the two sons who would become terrorists to deliver medical supplies and aid to rebels fighting the Qaddafi regime, a report by the UK Parliament’s intelligence committee said.

It is believed images shown to the hearing were taken in Libya.

The inquiry is to hear evidence from members of Didsbury Mosque to establish if it was a place of radicalisation.

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 6:21 PM