The man responsible for last week’s bombing of Manchester Arena came from a neighborhood known for being a terrorist haven.
Salman Abedi hailed from Whalley Range, a Manchester neighborhood home to former and current members of al-Qaida. Several former members of the al-Qaida linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Abedi’s own father, call the neighborhood home, according to Fox News. Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a notorious al-Qaida bomb maker and recruiter, also lived in the area.
Ramadan Abedi fled from Libya with several other LIFG members in 1993 after former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s security services cracked down on the group. The elder Abedi sought asylum in the U.K., eventually bringing his family to Whalley Range. Salman reportedly traveled back to Libya with his father at age 16 to fight the Gaddafi regime, according to BBC.
Azzouz, a Manchester native, was sent to Libya in 2011 by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to set up a fighting force in the wake of Gaddafi’s overthrow. He appeared to have had some success, and recruited approximately 200 fighters. Azzouz’s activities eventually caught the attention of various security agencies, earning him a terrorist designation from the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.
The al-Qaida recruiter was reportedly arrested by British authorities in 2006, but was later released on bail, eventually leaving the country. Azzouz was eventually arrested in Turkey in 2014 for his suspected role in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2011. He was then transferred to Jordan, and eventually to the U.S.
U.K. police have conducted several raids in Whalley Range and other Manchester neighborhoods since Monday’s attack. A total of 16 people have been arrested, with 14 currently still in custody.
The Islamic State took credit for the Manchester bombing, but failed to refer to Abedi by name. Bomb tech experts have speculated that Abedi may have had help in preparing his explosive, but his connections to any specific terrorist cell remain unclear.
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