Police Knew of Manchester Arena Bomber’s Terror Connections Three Years Before Attack
Police detectives were aware of the Machester Arena bomber’s ties to terrorism three years before the attack that left 22 mostly young people dead and scores more injured at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017.
The inquiry into the Manchester Arena suicide bombing committed by Libyan migrant Salman Abedi has revealed that police were aware of 1,300 text messages between the would-be terrorist and Abdalraouf Abdallah, while he was under investigation in November of 2014. Abdallah was later jailed in 2016 after being convicted of helping people travel to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State.
In one message, Abedi said: “By Allah … every day, on every kneeling I ask my Lord for martyrdom”.
In another exchange, Abedi called non-Muslims “dogs” and “kuffars” – an Arabic derogatory meaning “unbelievers”, “disbelievers”, or “infidels” that has been frequently been used in ISIS propaganda. He went to share an image of the currency used by ISIS to hail that Syria is not “under control of the west”.
Yet the exchanges were not deemed to be worth to merit an investigation to determine the identity of the future bomber, who was only referred to as ‘Salman’ in Abdallah’s phone.
The investigator who initially uncovered the texts, Frank Morris, admitted before the inquiry that more should have been done to look in Abedi, saying that he, alongside four or five other investigators, including detectives and intelligence analysts, failed to flag the messages for “development” as there was nothing extraordinary about the exchanges.
“At that time this was commonplace and I know I keep saying it, this was not unusual. That’s the issue with intelligence – it’s very subjective,” the former senior investigating officer at North West Counter Terrorism Policing (NWCTP) said.
“It went to the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], they did not ask. Nobody ever asked who this Salman was. So with hindsight, of course, it should have been put in, but at the time I did not think it should have been,” Morris added.
The chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders, lamented, however, that if police had uncovered the true identity of the Manchester Arena bomber it could have “informed future decisions” on preventing the attack.
On top of the failures to uncover his identity, the inquiry has revealed that Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, was alerted 18 times about Abedi prior to the fatal bombing. Reports have also shown that MI5 had multiple chances to possibly prevent the attack.
The local Manchester police force has also come under fire for not stationing any officers at the arena while the would-be bomber entered the concert as an officer took a two-hour unauthorised break.
At the same time, security guards at the venue failed to intercept Abedi for fear of being labelled “racist” despite having a “bad feeling” about him.
Following the attacks, the health service also failed to properly care for the victims, leading to an eight-year-old girl, Saffie Roussos, bleeding to death over several hours without adequate care or a blood transfusion.
In August of 2020, the brother of the suicide bomber, Hashem Abedi, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for helping Salman plot the attack.