MI5 Investigates Itself Over Manchester Bombing
MI5 has launched two urgent inquiries into how it missed the danger posed by the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, amid claims his interest in being a potential terrorist killer was repeatedly reported to the authorities.
British intelligence agency MI5 was reportedly warned by its US counterpart that Salman Abedi was planning an attack on UK soil, three months before he blew himself up outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
FBI agents are said to have informed British officials that the 22-year-old was part of a North African Islamic State cell based in the north west of England that was plotting an attack in the UK.
Britain’s domestic security service started one review last week, which will aim to quickly identify any glaring errors, while the other will be more in depth, the Guardian has learned.
On Sunday, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, refused to comment on whether opportunities were missed to spot the murderous intent of the 22-year-old before his deadly attack, as national security became the major issue in the general election campaign.
Abedi was reportedly placed on a US terrorist watch list in 2016 after he came to the attention of intelligence agencies during an investigation into terrorist groups operating in Libya.
“In early 2017 the FBI told MI5 that Abedi belonged to a North African terror gang based in Manchester, which was looking for a political target in this country,” a security source told The Mail on Sunday.
“The information came from the interception of his communications by US federal agents, who had been investigating Abedi since the middle of 2016, and from information unearthed in Libya, where his family was linked to terrorist groups.
The fallout from the attack has triggered an intense war of words across the political spectrum, with Rudd claiming that there would be a greater risk of another atrocity if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister.
As she accused the Labour leader of voting against anti-terror measures, saying there was “no evidence he will keep people safe”, Rudd’s Labour counterpart, Diane Abbott, hit back by claiming that government cuts, including to the police and border force, have “consequences”.
MI5 has faced questions over the fact that Abedi was on its radar but slipped through the net in order to carry out the attack that killed 22 people and seriously injured 64.
In response, defence officials said that at any one time they are juggling 500 terror investigations involving 3,000 subjects.
Investigators believe Abedi, whose parents come from Libya, may have received terrorist training in the country, where some areas are believed to be a safe haven for jihadis. He returned to the UK from Libya just days before exploding a homemade bomb packed with metal bolts and screws, carried in a rucksack, murdering 22 people after the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday 22 May.
Teachers and religious figures in Manchester who knew Abedi raised concerns about his extremist views on multiple occasions and over several years.