M15 spy agency look­ing at whether warn­ings of at­tack were ig­nored

New Straits Times - - World -

ABELL tolled here on Mon­day at the ex­act time when a sui­cide bomber struck a week be­fore out­side a teenage pop con­cert, killing 22 peo­ple, as Bri­tain’s i ntel­li­gence agency ques­tioned whether vi­tal clues had been missed.

Hun­dreds braved the rain in the north­west English city for a silent vigil at 2131 GMT amid floral tributes, can­dles and teddy bears to honour the vic­tims, who in­cluded six chil­dren.

As the num­ber of peo­ple de­tained in Bri­tain rose to 14, fol­low­ing an ar­rest early Mon­day morn­ing, police re­leased new CCTV images of 22-year-old at­tacker Sal­man Abedi car­ry­ing a large suit­case and ap­pealed for in­for­ma­tion about the lug­gage.

Police also re­vealed Abedi’s petty crim­i­nal past yes­ter­day.

The authorities said he had ap­peared in police records over theft, re­ceiv­ing stolen goods and as­sault in 2012, but was never flagged up for any rad­i­cal views.

Abedi det­o­nated his bomb just af­ter the end of a con­cert by United States pop star Ari­ana Grande in one of Europe’s biggest in­door are­nas in central Manch­ester. Many of the vic­tims were ei­ther young con­cert-go­ers or par­ents wait­ing to take their chil­dren home.

A to­tal of 116 peo­ple were in­jured in the at­tack, by Manch­ester-born Abedi, a univer­sity dropout of Libyan origin, 19 of whom re­main in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

The I slamic State ji­hadist group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack.

“You tried to de­stroy us but you’ve brought us closer to­gether,” read one mes­sage of de­fi­ance left among the tributes in central Manch­ester, which i ncluded heart-shaped bal­loons and runners’ bibs left by par­tic­i­pants in a half-marathon on Sunday.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors pushed ahead with their probe. Police could be seen con­duct­ing a search at a rub­bish tip near Manch­ester and they re­leased images of Abedi car­ry­ing a blue suit­case hours be­fore the at­tack, ask­ing the pub­lic where and when they might have seen him with it in the pre­ced­ing days.

“We have no rea­son to be­lieve the case and its con­tents con­tain any­thing danger­ous, but would ask peo­ple to be cau­tious,” the police said in a state­ment, stress­ing that the suit­case was dif­fer­ent from the back­pack Abedi used in the at­tack.

Abedi is be­lieved to have re­turned from a trip to Libya a few days be­fore the bomb­ing and had also re­cently tran­sited through air­ports in Is­tan­bul and Dusseldorf in Ger­many.

The lat­est per­son held was a 23-year-old man ar­rested in the south­ern coastal town of Shore­ham-by-Sea, more than 400km from here.

Fourteen men are de­tained on UK soil in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, while Abedi’s fa­ther and brother have been held in Libya, where of­fi­cials said the two brothers were IS ji­hadists.

None of the men ar­rested in Bri­tain have been charged with any crime and police have up to 14 days in which to do so un­der anti-ter­ror­ism laws.

Amid mount­ing crit­i­cism of the se­cu­rity ser­vices, the do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence agency MI5 is look­ing at de­ci­sions taken in the case of Abedi, who used to be on a ter­ror watch­list but was no longer on it at the time of the at­tack, and whether warn­ings about his be­hav­iour were ig­nored.

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