Police and the media in England are forming a profile of the suicide bomber who killed 22 in Manchester Monday night. Salman Abedi, a British national with Libyan roots, is believed to have carried out the attack. Yet his family and friends are portraying Abedi as a normal teenager, someone who wouldn’t be likely to kill himself, much less innocent children.
The improvised explosive device he detonated killed 22 and injured more than 100 others. Many remain in critical condition. The incident shocked fans of Ariana Grande, but the blast is part of a larger pattern in Europe. This latest incident is shifting the focus on prevention, and those efforts require an understanding of how Abedi reached this violent end.
Speaking from Tripoli, Libya, Ramadan Abedi (the boy’s father) was in denial. “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us,” he told The Daily Mail.
Ramadan Abedi said he’d talked with his son just five days ago, and that he was preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia. Ramadan claims his son had no ties with radical militants.
Another Abedi, the bomber’s brother Ismail, was arrested in England Tuesday. Ismail claims he and his brother were headed to the Middle East to spend Ramadan with their family.
The family fled Libya to England in 1993 when Moammar Gadhafi’s began hunting them down. They sought asylum in England, and only returned to their homeland after Gadhafi was overthrown. The Mail reports that Ramadan is now with the country’s Central Security force in Tripoli.
The Mail is also publishing pictures of the bomber that make him look like a typical teenager. These are from when he was just 14.
One former class mate said there was no indication of radicalization before the attack. “None of them were your typical Salafis or religious or extremists. No religion was involved.” He did note, though, that the Abedi brothers began hanging out with a new crowd a year or so ago.”
“It was like a turning-point,” the classmate said. “He suddenly started hanging out with people I’d never seen before and not his old friends anymore.” Abedi reportedly played a lot of soccer and even smoke pot.
A neighbor of the family refutes that claim. “The family is super religious. They have about 10 kids and you never see any of the girls,” he said. “I only ever saw the mother once or twice in 10 years. She always stayed in the house and whenever I saw her she was wearing a veil.”
The recent trip to Libya may have included a side-trip into Syria. And it is believed that Abedi traveled by train to London just before the attack. This last trip has fueled suspicion that a network of extremists in England provided him with the bomb and that he wasn’t working alone.
Clearly something in Abedi’s demeanor changed. The police in England have now made four arrests in connection with the bombing, though few details about those arrests are available. And the police across the country are being replaced or backed by more than 1,000 active duty soldiers as the nation prepares for even more attacks.