Radical Libyan-Canadian Imam Denies Links To Manchester Bomber

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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A Libyan-Canadian imam has taken to a Libyan website to say he is not connected to Salman Abedi, the now notorious Manchester bomber who murdered young girls at a pop concert.

Abdul Baset Ghwela remains accused by the Canadian federal government of promoting violent jihad, but he said Sunday there is no truth to the allegations.

“The alleged links between Abedi and me, which was claimed by The New York Times and National Post, are baseless and lack evidence,” Ghwela told the Libya Observer on Sunday.

But the Times, in a story that was also picked up by the Post, said Sunday Muslim cleric had “established a connection” with Abedi when the two were both in Libya together.

Ghwela has not commented to either the Times nor the Post, but the Libya Observer says it has received email correspondence from Ghwela, who says he “has never met with Abedi before.”

Ghwela, who also goes under the alias of Abdu Albasset Egwilla, was an imam in Ottawa for years before he returned to Libya after becoming increasingly radicalized. He returned to Libya where he has established a reputation as a radical Muslim extremist. One of his sons volunteered to fight with an ISIS-related group. Owais Ghwela was killed last March while fighting in armed combat.

Ghwela has advertised his commitment to violent jihad. A Canadian intelligence report was produced, entitled Canadian-Libyan promotes violent jihad in Libya on YouTube. The report references remarks that Ghwela has made about radical Islamic extremism, quoting the imam as saying, “Jihad today is simple and easily accessible, and does not require moving as in the past, as it was for Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Last Wednesday, The New York Times quoted a senior U.S. intelligence source saying that Abedi “had links to a radical preacher in Libya identified as Abdul Baset Ghwela.”

Canada’s RCMP will only say that they are aware of the report but will not confirm or deny an consequent investigation.

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