The suicide bomber who detonated a suitcase bomb at a Manchester concert on 22 May has been identified as Salman Abeidi, a British-born Libyan. His parents were dissidents who fled to the UK during the Qadhafi period. Abeidi lived with his family in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Fallowfield in south Manchester. The family was part of a close-knit Libyan community and was known to be religious. Abeidi was active within the local mosque prior to his parents’ return to Libya. The Imam at Didsbury Mosque, which was accused of funding extremists through the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LFIG) in 2011, denounced a connection with Abeidi, stating the bomber had expressed extreme dislike for him and his sermons that denounced ISIS. Classmates of Abeidi remembered him as a different guy, fun and sociable, until he returned from a trip to Libya and withdrew from his friends, started wearing Islamic dress, and dropped out of Salford University.
British intelligence agencies confirm that Abeidi had traveled back and forth to Libya several times, with his final trip as recently as three weeks ago. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said security services were aware of him “up to a point,” and The Times reported that Abeidi was a known associate of ISIS recruiter Raphael Hostey, also from Manchester, who was killed in Syria last year. French interior minister Gerard Collombtold broadcaster BFMTV that Aneidi might have travelled to Syria, and that he had direct links to ISIS who has since claimed responsibility for the attack and deemed Abeidi a soldier of the caliphate. However, inconsistencies between ISIS’ announcement and the British police’s official accounthave raised questions over whether the attacker had concrete links with ISIS or was acting alone inspired by ISIS propaganda. Expert Jean-Marc Rickli, of King’s College London, pointed out that in the case of suicide bombings, there is a level of bomb-making craft involved which necessitates either training or access to training material.
Possible links to Al-Qaeda include the Disdbury Mosque and the fact that Abeidi lived close to identified members of the LIFG, including Abd al-Baset Azzouz who is considered an expert in bomb making. Abeidi’s older brother Ismail is in custody and security services in London haveintensified efforts to uncover information about his contacts in Libya, and his family’s orientation or tribal links to Islamist groups in Libya.