Almost three months before a 22-year-old suicide bomber blew himself up at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom, the FBI had warned its British counterpart, MI5, that Salman Abedi was planning a terror attack in the country. Twenty-two people, mostly young girls, died in the bombing May 22.
Abedi was already placed on terror watch list in the United States after he came under the scanner in 2016 during an investigation into terror groups operating in Libya, the Independent reported. He was born to Libyan parents in 1994. He and his family fled their native country and moved to Manchester, England, after becoming enemies of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, BBC reported. Before moving to Manchester, his family had spent four years in London.
“In early 2017 the FBI told MI5 that Abedi belonged to a North African terror gang based in Manchester, which was looking for a political target in this country,” a British security source told the Daily Mail on Sunday.
“The information came from the interception of his communications by U.S. federal agents, who had been investigating Abedi since the middle of 2016, and from information unearthed in Libya, where his family was linked to terrorist groups,” the source further said, adding “Following this U.S. tip-off, Abedi and other members of the gang were scrutinized by MI5. It was thought at the time that Abedi was planning to assassinate a political figure. But nothing came of this investigation and, tragically, he slipped down the pecking order of targets.”
Meanwhile, MI5 faced flak for the fact that Abedi was under their scanner, and yet he managed to slip through the cracks. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd also confirmed Abedi did not act alone and that he was known to security services.
“It seems likely possible that he wasn't doing this on his own so the intelligence services and the police are pursuing their leads in order to make sure they get all the information that they need to keep us safe,” Rudd told BBC Radio, Reuters reported.
“The security services will know a lot of people, it doesn't mean they are expected to arrest everybody that they know, but it is somebody that they had known before and I'm sure when this investigation concludes we'll be able to find out more,” Rudd said when asked if Abedi was already known to security services.
MI5 has launched a ‘post-incident investigation’ into how Abedi managed to escape security check despite being in a list of terror suspects. The security agency will also prepare a separate report for those who will be a part of the investigation team, BBC reported.
Police officials said around 1,000 people are working on the Manchester bombing case and that they were making ‘good progress.’
In all, 16 people have been arrested so far in relation to the incident. However, a 16-year-old boy and a woman were released without any charges, the report said. The threat level in the country has also been reduced from ‘critical’ to ‘severe’ and the army deployed in several places is expected to withdraw late Monday night.