Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people in the Manchester Arena bombing, had spoken about killing people “in a public space” for years before his attack but the talk was dismissed as “bravado”, a public inquiry has heard.
Abedi had on many occasions used such rhetoric to friends and family but no one took his comments seriously, the inquiry in Manchester was told.
A prison officer, who was identified by as PO1, said he had held a conversation on December 1, 2021 with Abedi’s close friend Abdalraouf Abdallah, 28, who is serving a jail sentence for terrorism at HMP Wakefield.
During the five-minute chat, PO1 sat on the prisoner’s bed in his cell and was told by Abdallah the Manchester killings in 2017 were committed by “one of his boys”.
PO1 said Abdallah told him that Abedi had talked to friends and family for years about harming others but everyone thought “he would never go through with it”.
Abdallah told the prison officer he was “shocked” by the bombing in May 2017 and that if he had known Abedi’s plans he would have tried to talk him out of it.
Abdallah, giving witness evidence to the inquiry in November 2021, said there was “no way” he could have known what Abedi was planning.
On May 22, 2017 Abedi, 22, a British citizen of Libyan descent, killed 22 people and injured 1,017 when he detonated a suicide bomb at Manchester Arena at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande. His home-made rucksack bomb was packed with shrapnel.
In March 2020, the bomber's younger brother, Hashem Abedi, was found guilty of 22 counts of murder relating to the attack and sentenced to jail for life. The siblings had spent months plotting their attack.
PO1 said the bomber worked closely with Abdallah, known as “Abs”, who is also of Libyan descent. The Abedis and Abdallah’s family lived in Moss Side in Manchester, having been granted asylum.
The prisoner is a paraplegic, having been injured while fighting Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in Libya’s civil war in 2011.
PO1 said Abdallah told him: “It was one of his boys who he grew up with and he has always been one of those that said he liked to endanger others.
“But because he had said it so many times over so many years, they just took it as hearsay and [thought he] would never go through with it.
“He then went on to say if he knew anything about the incident, he would have tried his best to intervene and talk him out of doing it due to the repercussions and magnitude.”
On the day of his meeting with Abdallah, the officer filed an intelligence report on the conversation.
It read: “He is feeling really low. That one of his close boys on the out has actually committed the terrorist act in Manchester and states that when he last spoke to him ages ago that he didn’t think he would go through with it and that it was just hearsay.”
Three weeks later, PO1 gave more detail in a statement to police about the conversation he had had about the bomber.
That statement read: “I said that, ‘if he was one of his boys, had he not mentioned it to him?’
“Abs said for years the lad had said about killing people in a public space but all this lad’s friends and family had shrugged it off as just bravado, it had been said that often.”
Abdallah was jailed in 2016 for helping four men from Manchester travel to Syria where three of them fought for ISIS.
Abedi had twice visited him in jail, the second time only months before the suicide bombing.
The friends had used a smuggled mobile phone to exchange thousands of messages, including discussing “martyrdom”.
They shared an “extremist Islamist mindset”, the inquiry heard, with Abdallah accused of “grooming” Abedi.
In January the inquiry heard that nearly five years after the attack joint principles to which first responders should work towards are still “not sufficiently embedded throughout the emergency services”.
Keith Prior, a director of the National Ambulance Resilience Unit, also said there was there was a “national shortage” of specialist Hazardous Area Response Team paramedics.
Experts had already told the inquiry that not enough paramedics were dispatched to the scene of the bombing to treat victims.
The inquiry also heard that Greater Manchester Police, the force which responded to the bombing, had not been training officers adequately in first aid.
The force was offering six hours of training to employees instead of the recommended nine.
Abdallah denies any involvement or knowledge of the Manchester Arena attack.
The inquiry continues.