Manchester Arena Bomber’s Brother Flees Country
The elder brother of the Manchester Arena Islamist suicide bomber has fled the United Kingdom ahead of his expected appearance before the public inquiry into the 2017 attack that left 23 dead and scores injured.
Ismail Abedi, the older brother of Salman Abedi, who died in a suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert, has reportedly fled the country, with some suggesting that he was afraid of incriminating himself during testimony in the inquiry.
Abedi had previously requested immunity from criminal prosecution as a prerequisite for testifying before the inquest, however, the request was rejected by the chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders.
The lead counsel of the inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, said on Tuesday according to the BBC, that the brother of the notorious terrorist was “not currently in the country and there is no indication as to when he will return”.
Mr Greaney suggested Sir John should use his powers to compel Islam Abedi to comply with the request to testify, adding: “As he surely must understand, the public may infer he has something to hide and so, sir.”
A childhood friend of the suicide bomber, Ahmed Taghdi was arrested trying to leave the country on Monday, after receiving a High Court order demanding that he testify in the inquiry or face arrest.
Ismail Abedi was not subject to the same court order, allowing him to escape the country.
Both men are considered to be key witnesses in the inquiry as a main subject of the hearings is set to focus on the radicalisation process for Salman and Hashem Abedi. Ahmed Taghdi and Salman are believed to have visited convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah, who some have pointed to as having “groomed” the bomber.
“This is without question one of the most difficult and troubling questions for the inquiry to grapple with,” Greaney said.
“It is very difficult to comprehend why a person with any shred of decency could ever think of detonating a suicide bomb in the midst of a crowd, killing or maiming many innocent victims,” he added.
The morning after the fatal bombing, which killed 22 and injured over 1,000 — not to mention the trauma caused to the families of the deceased — Ismail Abedi was arrested and detained for nearly two weeks by counter-terrorism police.
The bomber’s brother denied involvement in the attack and claimed that he did not influence his younger brother’s turn towards radical Islamism.
During the majority of the interviews held with the police, Ismail merely said “no comment” to questions from officers.
While he was released without charge, the inquiry into the bombing has heard that his Facebook account showed signs of supporting ISIS, including a picture of him holding a machine gun with a flag for the so-called Islamic State in the background. The inquest also heard that Ismail’s mobile phone contained ISIS literature and recruitment videos.
During the trial of his brother, Hashem Abedi — who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in the bombing — evidence emerged connecting Ismail to the attack.
For example, his name was used to purchase insurance for a car used by Salman and Hashem to transport materials as they prepared for the attack. When Ismail was arrested following the bombing, a bank card used by the brothers to fund the attack was found in his possession. It later emerged that the card was recieving state benefits for their mother, despite her allegedly being in Lybia at the time.
The inquiry has so far demonstrated widespread institutional failure surrounding the 2017 bombing, including the nation’s MI5 security service, the local Manchester Police force, and the Arena operators.
During testimony, a security guard at the arena on the night of the attack, said that while he was suspicious of the would-be suicide bomber, he didn’t confront the terrorist out of fear of being considered racist.