Manchester Bomber Believed Muslims Were Mistreated, Sought Revenge
Salman Abedi straddled middle-class Britain and his parents’ tumultuous North African homeland
An undated photo of Salman Abedi made available on Wednesday. Photo: Associated Press
Hassan Morajea in Tunis, Tunisia,
Georgi Kantchev and
Mike Bird in Manchester, England
Days before Salman Abedi blew himself up and killed 22 people outside a Manchester concert on Monday, he told his parents he was leaving their home in Libya to go on a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, despite having other plans.
Interviews with friends and family suggest that Abedi grew up in a world that straddled middle-class Britain and the Libya of his parents, both before and after the chaotic collapse of strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
In 2011, when Abedi was still a teenager, he traveled to Libya and fought alongside his father in a militia known as the Tripoli Brigade to oust Gadhafi as the revolts of the Arab Spring swept North Africa and the Middle East, a family friend said.
The militia battled in Libya’s western mountains and played an important role in the fall of Tripoli to rebel forces that year.
Ramadan Abedi, Salman’s father, speaking at his home in Tripoli, Libya, on Wednesday before being detained. Photo: Ghaith Shennib/Bloomberg News
Abedi and his mother returned to Britain in 2014, the family friend said. The young man enrolled at Manchester’s University of Salford in 2015 to study business administration. He studied for a year before effectively dropping out, according to a university spokesman. Abedi remained in Manchester, but his parents moved back to Libya last October, according to a relative, who said Abedi stayed there for roughly three weeks before his final return to Manchester.
Abedi’s sister, Jomana Abedi, said her brother was kind and loving and that she was surprised by what he did this week. She said she thought he was driven by what he saw as injustices.
“I think he saw children—Muslim children—dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge,” she said. “Whether he got that is between him and God.”
In May 2016, an 18-year-old friend of Salman Abedi’s, Abdul Wahab Hafidah, a Briton of Libyan descent, died after being run down by a car and then stabbed in Manchester. Six men and a 15-year-old boy are on trial in a Manchester court this month charged with murder in connection with the killing, which prosecutors have argued was gang-related. The defendants deny wrongdoing.
Abedi viewed the attack as a hate crime, the family friend said, and grew increasingly angry about what he considered ill-treatment of Muslims in Britain. “I remember Salman at his funeral vowing revenge,” the Abedi family friend said.
Abedi became increasingly religious, family members said, and interested in extremist groups. A cousin, who declined to be named, said Abedi’s parents worried he was headed toward violence.
“We knew he was going to cause trouble,” the family friend said. “You could see that something was going to happen, sooner or later.”
Born in Manchester on New Year’s Eve in 1994, Abedi grew up playing soccer with his brothers in the street and went to school at the local Burnage Academy for Boys.
Hashem Abedi, Salman’s brother, after his arrest on Tuesday in Tripoli for alleged links to the Islamic State extremist group. Photo: Ahmed Bin Salman/Special Deterrent Force/Associated Press
In Manchester, neighbors remember a family that didn’t mix much with others. On Fridays, they could be seen walking out of their house in traditional Muslim dress to attend a mosque in a converted church nearby.
People at the mosque remember Abedi’s father, Ramadan, sometimes performing the call to prayer, and his brother, Ismail, attending. They said Abedi wasn’t a regular.
His older brother, Ismail, worked as a computer engineer at the headquarters of the Park Cake Bakery, a big British baker with around 2,000 employees. He lived with his wife in an apartment near the Abedi family home in south Manchester. The building was searched by police on Tuesday and Ismail Abedi was arrested nearby.
Akram Ramadan, 49, who lives upstairs, said Ismail Abedi “was a talkative guy who would always say hello.” He described Ismail as “a regular Joe,” adding that he was “definitely a Manc”—a local colloquialism for people from Manchester.
Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem, detained in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Wednesday, confessed that the pair were members of Islamic State and involved in the attack, according to local Libyan security officials.
British and U.S. authorities caution that they haven’t been able to verify a link between Abedi and Islamic State. Investigators are also looking into the possibility that Abedi went to Syria before the attack, one Western security official said.
In an interview before being detained, Ramadan Abedi told the Associated Press, “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us.” He said his son had never been to Syria, the AP reported.
It was impossible to independently confirm the Libyan authorities’ assertion about Hashem Abedi’s confession, or to ascertain the conditions under which it was made. Libyan militias routinely resort to harsh tactics to get information from terrorism suspects. A U.K. government spokesman declined to comment.
On Monday evening, Salman Abedi was captured on security cameras, carrying a bag and walking in the foyer of the Manchester Arena where American pop star Ariana Grande was wrapping up her concert.
—Max Colchester in Manchester and Laurence Fletcher in London contributed to this article.
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