Police and security services have found bomb-making materials which could be primed for imminent attacks in the extensive raids following the Manchester suicide bombing, The Independent has learned. One suspect device was blown up in a controlled explosion and security sources say that there is a real possibility that there are other materials yet to be found . The law agencies are convinced that a terrorist network had been established to carry out a sustained assault and further arrests are likely in and outside Manchester. Meanwhile family members of the Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi have been arrested in Libya and the UK . The bomber s father, Ramadan Abedi, was taken away in Tripoli by masked gunmen from a government militia as he was giving a television interview declaring that his dead son was innocent .
Another son living in the city with him, Hashem, was detained soon afterwards, with Libyan officials officials stating that he had links with Isis . Salman Abedi s mother, Samia Tabbal, and another son, Ismail, have been arrested in Manchester. Three arrests were made on Tuesday night, and a further three arrests followed on Wednesday of a man in Wigan, a man in Nuneaton and a woman in Blackley, north Manchester. The focus is now very much on the Libyan connection . Abedi s father was a fighter with an Islamist group banned by the UN s Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The Independent has learned he once worked for the Gaddafi regime s security apparatus before turning towards hardline Islam: one of his associates once ran a group called the Islamic Martyrs Movement.
The Abedi elder, also known as Abu Ismail al-Obaidi, was a long-term member of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group (LIFG), which had forged links with al-Qaeda during the war against the Russians in Afghanistan . He left Manchester to take part in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and currently works with a militia, the Nawasi Brigade, in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Abedi had joined LIFG when it was run by Abdelhakim Belhaj who now heads a political party, Al Watan, in Libya and is taking legal action against the British government for the “rendition”of him and his wife to the Libyan regime in which MI6 played a part . This was at a time when Muammar Gaddafi was being presented by the UK as a valued ally and feted by prime minister Tony Blair.
Abedi claimed today his son had nothing to do with the murders of 22 people at the Ariana Grande concert. “We don t believe in killing innocents . This is not us,” he insisted . His son, he claimed, was preparing to go to Saudi Arabia before spending the month of Ramadan with the rest of the family in Libya. The police and security agencies had managed to establish Abedi s identity quickly after finding his bank card at the scene of the attack . It has also emerged that a member of the family, as yet unnamed, had contacted the police after being alarmed by Abedi s increasingly aggressive Islamist statements.
The developments came on a day when authorities scrambled to piece together the events that led to Monday night’s atrocity in Manchester:
– Police arrested six people in the UK in connection with Monday night’s attack after discovering evidence of a wider terrorist cell functioning in the city
– Crime scene photos of shrapnel, a battery pack and the detonator used in the attack were published by The New York Times in a suspected intelligence leak, condemned by UK officials
– 1,000 armed soldiers were deployed to key sites across the country, including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament
– Police confirmed they had identified the 22 who died, including a serving off-duty police officer from Cheshire Constabulary
Abedi had been to Libya several times . His last visit, according to his father, was six weeks ago . The French foreign minister, Gerard Collomb, claimed today that the British security agencies believe he went on to Syria from Libya . But a senior security source said: “We think he got a few things garbled there, we know that Abedi had gone to Libya, whether he went to Syria or not remains a line of inquiry.”
Abedi s behaviour changed after he returned from his last Libyan visit, according to neighbours and friends with espousal of hardline Islam . It is at this time, it is believed, that one of the calls to the police was made by a member of the extended family. His father’s path to militancy began when he fell out with Gaddafi regime. The Independent has learned that in 1991 he left Libya for Saudi Arabia where he began to attend sermons by Salafist preachers .
It was a time when Saudi Arabia was funding, with the US and UK, the mujaheddin war against the Russians in Afghanistan and at a time when LIFG built connections with al-Qaeda . There is no evidence that Abedi had fought in Afghanistan or had links with al-Qaeda. Abedi left Saudi Arabia for Britain in 1992 with his wife . They lived in London before joining the Libyan community in Manchester, the largest in the UK where they started their family . He returned to Libya in 2008 under a reconciliation programme started by the Gaddafi regime . This involved him, and others taking part, to renounce extremism and violence.
Three years later Abedi was back in Libya in the uprising against Col Gaddafi . The regime fell after months of Nato bombing instigated by Britain and France . In the chaotic aftermath which followed extremist groups, including Isis, moved in . Conditions became ripe for exporting jihad to the UK.
Manchester suicide attacker ‘was known to security services but not thought to pose immediate threat’
The suicide bomber who killed 22 people, including children, at an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester1 was known to security services but they did not believe he posed an immediate threat, sources said today. About 59 people were injured when the terrorist detonated an improvised explosive device in a foyer packed with fans and families at the Manchester Arena last night. Police said the atrocity was carried out by a lone male bomber, who died at the scene . He is not included in the death toll.
In Downing Street, after chairing a Cobra emergency committee, the Prime Minister said: This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives. General election campaigning has been suspended . Mrs May said police knew the identity of the attacker and were working to establish if he was acting alone or as part of a wider group. It is thought he had been known to the security services but sources said he was not thought to be an immediate threat.
The Prime Minister vowed to defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence , saying: We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage. Greater Manchester Police today said it had arrested a man, 23, in the south of the city in connection with the attack. Chief constable Ian Hopkins said: This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.
The identity of one victim emerged today as friends paid tribute to Georgina Callander, 18, from Tarleton in Lancashire3 . Her mother confirmed her death to them. Shelby Wharton, 17, told the Standard that Miss Callander was kind and loving , adding: We were all praying for her to be found safely.
“Then we were told she had passed away . She was always very open, would talk to everyone . She was so nice .
It does not feel real . I just pray for her family.
Georgina pictured with Ariana Grande two years ago (Instagram)
Miss Callander, an Ariana Grande superfan , met the American singer in 2015 and had her picture taken with her . Posting the image online at the time she told friends: I can t believe this happened. She had tweeted Grande, 23, on Sunday, writing: So excited to see you tomorrow . She is said to have died in hospital with her mother at her bedside.
Georgina Callander was the first victim confirmed to have died in the attack
A relative told the Standard: The family is very devastated at the moment. In London, police deployed extra armed and unarmed officers on the streets. The attack comes two months after the Westminster atrocity and is the worst since the 7/7 bombings in the capital in 2005, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 hurt.
The horrific aftermath of the attack in Manchester (PA)
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said: We put extra police officers on duty as Londoners started their journeys into work.
This will continue for as long as it is needed, and the mix of armed and unarmed officers are there to reassure.
“Looking ahead to the weekend a normal, busy and vibrant weekend in our city we are working with all those planning events to make sure we are doing all we can. Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Met was reviewing security arrangements in the capital . He added: Manchester and the rest of Britain will never be cowed by terrorism . Those who want to destroy our way of life and divide us will never succeed. A police officer lays flowers at the scene (PA)
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Islamic State celebrated the bombing on social media.
Police were called to reports of an explosion at the 21,000-capacity arena at 10.33pm, moments after Grande, who was unharmed, finished her concert. Chilling: the moment fans hear a huge explosion ring out through the arena (Twitter)
Victims described hearing a bang before being thrown by the blast, which scattered nuts and bolts across the floor. Thousands of young people stampeded for the exits of the sold-out stadium in scenes caught on mobile phone cameras .
Some of those injured are thought to have been hurt in the rush. Witnesses said the scene was like a war zone , with bodies strewn across the foyer . Gary Walker, from Leeds, was with his wife in the foyer waiting to pick up his two daughters. A girl leaps down to flee the arena
He told the BBC Radio 5 Live: I was waiting for the kids to come out . We heard the last song, and quite a few people were flooding out and then suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke.
I felt a bit of pain in my foot and my leg .
My wife said, I need to lie down . I lay her down, she d got a stomach wound and possibly a broken leg. Police and concert-goers after last night’s attack (PA)
I was about three metres from the actual explosion. Mr Walker said the blast happened by the door in the foyer and that glass and metal nuts were left on the floor . He said he lay next to his wife for up to an hour until she was stretchered on a table to an ambulance .
His two daughters phoned to say they were safe. Chris Parker, 33, a rough-sleeper, was in the foyer, where he regularly goes to ask for money as crowds head home. He said: Everyone was piling out, all happy and everything else . As people were coming out of the glass doors I heard a bang and within a split second I saw a white flash, then smoke and then I heard screaming.
An ambulance at the scene after 22 people were killed (PA)
It knocked me to the floor and then I got up and instead of running away my gut instinct was to run back and try to help.
There were people lying on the floor everywhere . I saw a little girl .. . she had no legs . I wrapped her in one of the merchandise T-shirts and I said where is your mum and daddy? She said, My dad is at work, my mum is up there . Mr Parker said he also tended to a woman who had serious leg and head injuries .
He said: She passed away in my arms . She was in her sixties and said she had been with her family. Commuters at a nearby station fled in panic after the attack (PA)
I haven t stopped crying . The most shocking part of it is that it was a kids concert . There were nuts and bolts all over the floor . People had holes in their backs.
In the aftermath, taxi drivers turned off their meters and drove people home. Hotels and locals opened their doors to people stranded in the city centre. Manchester City football club opened its Etihad stadium to concert-goers and relatives, who gathered to wait for news.
Family members posted pictures online of loved ones who had failed to return home . A cordon remained around the arena today . Manchester Victoria station, which was evacuated last night, remained shut. The Cobra meeting this morning was chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by intelligence agencies and Scotland Yard s Mark Rowley, the head of UK counter-terrorism.
It is not thought that the bomber was being actively monitored or that he had displayed signs of being a significant threat. Sources said a key focus of the investigation was how he had learned to make a bomb . One possibility being examined is that he was trained overseas, possibly in Syria or Iraq, or had received instruction online.
The Muslim Council of Britain called the attack horrific and criminal .
The anti-terrorist hotline is 0800 789 321.
- ^ at an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester (www.standard.co.uk)
- ^ Today Theresa May condemned the killer s warped and twisted mind . (www.standard.co.uk)
- ^ Georgina Callander, 18, from Tarleton in Lancashire (www.standard.co.uk)
- ^ Reuse content (www.standard.co.uk)
A security guard was shot during an armed robbery at a bank in a busy north-east London town centre. Emergency services rushed to the scene of the incident at Nationwide in Walthamstow1 High Street shortly before 3.30am on Thursday morning. Officers had received reports a robbery was in progress.
A male security guard, aged 53, was found suffering from gunshot injuries, police2 said. Paramedics were called and he was taken to an east London hospital. A spokesman for the Met Police said: His injuries are not being treated as life threatening or life-changing.
Officers from the Met’s Flying Squad are investigating.
No arrests have been made.