Inquiry into 2017 suicide attack concludes that Salman Abedi’s parents held ‘significant responsibility’ for shaping his extreme worldview.
The family of the Manchester Arena bomber held “significant responsibility” for his radicalisation and he likely learnt to build his deadly device in Libya, an inquiry has concluded.
Salman Abedi, who carried out his suicide attack at the age of 22, came from a Libyan family who moved to the UK in 1993 and sought asylum on the basis they faced persecution under the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Both Ramadan, his father, and Samia Tabbal, his mother, “held extremist views” which helped shape the mindsets of both Salman and Hashem, his younger brother who was jailed in 2020 for his role in the attack, the Manchester Arena inquiry found.
Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chairman, concluded that Abedi’s descent into violent extremism was “primarily driven by noxious absences and malign presences”.
Ramadan was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamist organisation opposed to Colonel Gaddafi, and the inquiry found he was likely a member of the Martyrs Brigade, an Islamist militia reported to have links to terrorism.
Abedi travelled with his family to Libya in 2011, when a civil war was raging, leading Sir John to conclude it was likely both he and Hashem “had some involvement in fighting”.
Photographs obtained by police after the May 2017 terror attack showed Salman, Hashem and their older brother Ismail “carrying large guns, and in military uniform with weapons”.
The inquiry found that Ramadan’s preoccupation with Libya meant that, between 2015 and 2017, both Abedi and his younger brother were left living at home alone in Manchester for significant periods of time.
“The worldview of Ramadan Abedi is likely to have heavily influenced his sons,” Sir John said in the report.
Ismail, who is subject to an arrest warrant in the UK after fleeing the country to avoid giving evidence at the inquiry, also held radical views and was found to be in possession of a “significant volume of extremist material” when he was subject to a port stop in September 2015.
Police decided at the time that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a criminal offence.
Ismail was said to have influenced the worldviews of Salman and Hashem to “a significant extent”.
It took six months for the brothers to build the bomb.
Although police identified an IS instructional video on making which bore a “remarkable” similarity to the device built by Abedi, Sir John concluded they likely received training.
Their bomb used a highly volatile substance called triacetone triperoxide (TATP), also known as “Mother of Satan” and Abedi’s “undistinguished educational career” made it unlikely he could successfully build such a device without prior practice, the report said.
It remains a mystery who tutored the boys to make the bomb, but Sir John said: “It is probably the case that (Salman Abedi) received instruction in how to make TATP and construct an IED while in Libya in 2016.”
Among his reasons for reaching this conclusion was that the bomb was found to have a switch which is supplied by wholesalers to countries including Libya.
Salman and Hashem also deployed counter-surveillance techniques which were likely learnt in Libya, the inquiry found.
They took “extensive steps” to avoid detection, including separating bomb parts, giving false addresses and using untraceable sim cards on their phone.
“I do not credit (Salman) and (Hashem) with the intelligence or sophistication to have come up with the approach they took between themselves,” the report said.
Beyond his immediate family, Abedi associated with individuals who were involved in drug dealing or other crime, meaning he “had almost no close connections or friendships that would tie him to law‑abiding society”.
The report said: “It is likely that some of these friends and associates acted as radicalising influences in a general sense, making it acceptable or even desirable to hold violent extremist views and exposing Salman Abedi to material that supported and glamorised the actions of groups like Islamic State.
“Some may also have acted as triggers that moved Salman Abedi into the operational violent extremist phase.”
A radicalisation expert who gave evidence to the inquiry, Dr Matthew Wilkinson, found “every conceivable malign presence and noxious absence exist in Abedi’s life”, adding he had “never seen such a complete Petri dish absolutely brimming with germs”.
Sir John said that Abdalraouf Abdallah, a terrorist who returned to Manchester with “a hero status among impressionable young men” after being injured fighting in Libya – leaving him paralysed from the waist down – had an “important role” in radicalising Abedi.
Raphael Hostey, an Islamic State fighter killed in a drone strike in Syria, was also likely to have influenced the bomber, Sir John found.
Abdallah had known Abedi since they were children and the pair texted each other thousands of times where they discussed “martyrdom, the maidens of paradise, and a senior figure within Al-Qaeda and his death”.
Abdallah was convicted of terror offences in 2016, and while awaiting trial he attempted to call Abedi 38 times from prison. Abedi visited him in January 2017 at HMP Altcourse and also received calls from him the same month. Abedi’s extended family said his views became more extreme as his friendship with Abdallah developed.
A prison officer reported that Abdallah had told how Abedi had spoken about “killing people in a public space” and following the arena attack the terrorist was surprised “one of his boys” had committed the atrocity.
Abedi’s wider friendship group did “nothing to dissuade Salman Abedi from descending into an increasingly extremist worldview”, the report added.
Sir John said that Hostey was friends with Abedi and had recruited Islamic State members from south Manchester and that “in some way that I cannot quantify, Raphael Hostey played a part in the radicalisation of (Abedi), either directly or indirectly”.
The inquiry did not conclude that any of Abedi’s friends had direct knowledge of his plot.