The Scottish Mail on Sunday
SUICIDE BOMBER SCHOOL
How the Manchester Arena murderer is linked to Libyan...
MANCHESTER suicide bomber Salman Abedi learned his evil craft at a terrorist training school in Tripoli, according to senior sources from a Libyan militia.
Last week, The Mail on Sunday was shown around the remains of the bomb makers’ academy where Abedi is believed to have learned the skills he used to kill 22 people, including seven children, and injure 119 more at the Manchester Arena.
The deadly devices in the picture on the far right were among those said to have been constructed there.
The 22-year-old is known to have followed his father Ramadan into the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and its breakaway Al Muqatila brigade in 2011, before becoming further radicalised by Islamic State propaganda.
At a dusty compound in downtown Tripoli, Al Muqatila recruits spent hours assembling car bombs and suicide vests from parts stashed in makeshift lock-up garages and a metal container guarded day and night. It is even possible Abedi came here days before the Manchester attack on May 22, as he is known to have flown back to the UK on May 17 after a five-week stay in Tripoli.
One item of the terrorists’ lethal handiwork was discovered when the rival Haitham Tajouri militia over-ran the Al Muqatila base a fortnight ago following a battle.
They found a suitcase packed full of grenades and a mortar bomb in the boot of a car, forming an improvised explosive device (IED) powerful enough to kill or maim hundreds.
Elsewhere in the rubble-strewn compound in Gorji Street, crudely painted pictures of rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons still adorn the perimeter walls where groups of recruits gathered for tuition.
A senior figure from Haitham Tajouri showed the ruins to The Mail on Sunday, along with photos of the suitcase bomb.
‘We don’t know of many fathers who teach their sons to make bombs, and the Abedi family is unusual in having a suicide bomber and two suspects in the same household,’ he said. ‘But it seems inevitable to us that Ramadan Abedi, a known member of Al Muqatila, would bring his son here to train him.’
Last week, Abedi’s brother Hashem, 20, told Libyan investigators working alongside British police in Tripoli, that he had helped his brother buy components for the bomb in the UK, but claimed not to know the details of his plan.
It is believed that the device was put together at various addresses used by Abedi in Manchester before he targeted the Ariana Grande pop concert.
Abedi would have been welcomed as a youth member of the Al Muqatila brigade thanks to his father’s long association with the LIFG. Today Al Muqatila is continuously at war with other armed militias, and the fight to seize the training school was bloody. Dozens of fighters were killed in the three-day battle, the gateway to the compound bulldozed and destroyed, and the two tanks confiscated.
The source said: ‘Al Muqatila... are famed for their bombmaking skills and this was their factory and training ground. They are evil people.
‘Their aim is a caliphate throughout Libya under sharia law – similar to Islamic State.’
Abedi’s father Ramadan has openly admitted his allegiance to the militia. It was his membership of the LIFG – which was fiercely opposed to Gaddafi and made several attempts to assassinate him – which gained him political asylum in Britain in the Nineties. In 2011, Ramadan returned to Libya to fight for the overthrow of Gaddafi and Abedi, born in Manchester, went with him.
However, while his father stayed in Libya after Gaddafi’s defeat, Abedi returned to Manchester. There he appears to have lost his way, turning to Islamic State ideology after watching YouTube videos.
His parents, concerned Abedi and Hashem were involved with street gangs, brought the two young men to Tripoli to be with the family in mid April.
Today Ramadan is in the custody of Tripoli’s semiautonomous Special Deterrence Force along with his son Hashem, and both were interrogated last week by British security investigators.