The Manchester Arena bomber had contact with eight individuals who were ‘subjects of interest’ to MI5, the inquiry into the terror attack heard yesterday.
The revelation brought accusations from lawyers for the families of the blast victims that the intelligence agency had failed them.
‘You failed to protect these families and the public from a bomber,’ John Cooper QC told an MI5 witness. ‘On the most straightforward grounds, you failed.’
It came after the inquiry heard that the bomber, Salman Abedi, is ‘likely’ to have been indoctrinated into Islamist extremism by his own father.
CCTV image of Salman Abedi (Pictured) at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated the bomb. His brother Hashem Abedi has been found guilty of murder over the bombing that killed 22 people
MI5 officer, known as Witness J, was giving evidence on Monday at an inquiry into attack by Salman Abedi. The inquiry heard that the bomber, Salman Abedi, is ‘likely’ to have been indoctrinated into Islamist extremism by his own father
The director-general of Counter Terrorism at MI5, known only as Witness J, told how those such as Abedi, 22, with a Libyan background, were exposed to individuals with extremist tendencies from their parents’ generation.
These include former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – which fought against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime and has been linked to Al Qaeda – who moved to Britain. Abedi’s father Ramadan has been linked with LIFG.
‘Salman Abedi was assessed as likely his extreme views were informed by his father, Ramadan Abedi,’ Witness J said. Asked by Paul Greaney QC, for the inquiry, if it was assessed that Ramadan Abedi was involved with the LIFG, the spy said: ‘I’m afraid I am not able to go into that in open [hearings].’
The eight ‘subjects of interest’ included one who was in Libya and one in prison.
Some were direct contacts while others were indirect. The MI5 witness did not name Abdalraouf Abdallah, a convicted terrorist recruiter whose name was revealed by the Press, and was visited by Abedi twice in prison.
The second visit occurred on the day Abedi ordered his first bomb-making chemicals and he also exchanged calls using an illicit phone on the day they were delivered. Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chairman has ruled that there is ‘centrally important material’ relevant to the question of whether MI5 could have prevented the attacks that cannot be revealed to the public.
The inquiry has previously heard there were 18 missed opportunities when the security services could have stopped Salman Abedi.
It is currently examining whether Abedi – who the spy services first became aware of aged 16 in 2013 – should have been ‘reopened’ as a subject of interest in 2016, in light of what was known by MI5 and police at that time.
A second issue will be whether Abedi should have been reopened as a subject of interest in the first few months of 2017 in response to information received.
The last issue is whether he should have been put on a ‘ports action’ list in 2017 which would have alerted police to his return from Libya. Abedi murdered 22 men, women and children and injured hundreds more by detonating a backpack at a concert in 2017. The hearing continues.