Why DID they hide the truth on the Manchester bomber? Victims left angry after they were kept in the dark over the Royal Navy plucking terrorist from Libyan warzone
- Salman Abedi was one of 110 Britons rescued by the Royal Navy from Libya
- Security services had concerns about Abedi seven months before the rescue
- He was rescued from Libya by HMS Enterprise along with his brother Hashem
- Last night, MPs demanded to know how the security services lost track of Abedi
Salman Abedi was rescued from Libya by the Royal Navy before returning to the UK
Victims of the Manchester Arena attack last night demanded to know why the Royal Navy’s rescue of the bomber from war-torn Libya was kept secret.
The Daily Mail revealed yesterday that HMS Enterprise plucked Salman Abedi, then 19, to safety as fighting intensified in August 2014.
He flew home to the UK, but less than three years later set off a shrapnel-filled suicide bomb at a pop concert in the city where he grew up – killing 22 people, including seven children.
An independent review of MI5 and counter-terrorism police’s contact with Abedi was published in December.
But the report by former terror watchdog David Anderson QC made no mention of the fact that Abedi and his brother, Hashem, 21, were among 100 British citizens evacuated by the Navy survey ship.
Last night politicians, survivors and lawyers representing the families of those killed in the atrocity attacked the Government for keeping the public ‘in the dark’ about the rescue.
Salman Abedi, who attacked the Manchester arena was rescued from Libya onboard HMS Enterprise, pictured arriving in Valetta, Malta on August 4, 2014. Abedi was among 110 Britons – including his brother Hashem – rescued from the war zone by the Royal Navy
They also demanded to know why the Abedis – British-born sons of Libyan migrants – had been allowed to visit the Middle Eastern state without apparent scrutiny and subsequently fell off the security services’ radar.
Robby Potter, 48, who almost died in the attack after shrapnel from the bomb punctured his heart, told the Mail: ‘The authorities have definitely hidden this information from us. They haven’t been honest.
‘The Government should have told us straight away or it should have been in the reports. We have been left to find out through the Press.’
John Woodcock, the independent MP for Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, said: ‘It is deeply concerning that the Royal Navy’s role in extracting Salman Abedi has had to be uncovered by a media investigation rather than being volunteered by the British Government.
Robby Potter, pictured with his wife Leonora Ogerio. They were both wounded in the attack
‘In particular, David Anderson QC needs to explain why he did not include this in his report into the Manchester bombing – was he kept in the dark or did he choose to hide it from the public?
‘Either way, this undermines the important role he had as Britain’s independent reviewer of terror legislation.
‘I believe the Navy acted perfectly properly in rescuing these British citizens but unnecessary secrecy leaves the unfortunate impression that the Government has something it wants to hide.’
It is understood that the Ministry of Defence was the first Whitehall department to discover that Abedi had been rescued by the Royal Navy.
Abedi was already being monitored by the security services seven months before his rescue
His name emerged on passenger lists handed to the sailors on HMS Enterprise. The information was subsequently passed on to Number Ten, the Foreign Office and the Home Office.
Whitehall sources said that Abedi’s rescue did not come to light in the Anderson report because it had no relevance to potential security failings.
But Elkan Abrahamson, a solicitor representing relatives of victims of the bombing for the forthcoming inquests, said: ‘The trouble with the Anderson report is that we are not allowed to see the primary sources – that is, the MI5 or other security service documents.
‘I am sure that the security services have not told us the full story. We may need an inquiry to get at the truth.’
He added: ‘Both Abedi and his brother ought to have been tracked better, there are certainly concerns around that.’
The Daily Mail yesterday uncovered how Abedi was rescued by the Royal Navy from Libya
The Anderson report revealed that Abedi was already being monitored by the security services a full seven months before the rescue and that MI5 closed his file as a result of mistaken identify a month prior to his evacuation from Libya in 2014.
Senior security sources insist Abedi had not been radicalised at the time of the rescue and instead was brainwashed after watching bomb-making videos on the internet.
However, other sources have claimed that Abedi was seen on the front line, fighting alongside jihadis in Ajdabiya, eastern Libya. Survivors of the atrocity said it was difficult to understand why the Abedis were not detained or monitored following the rescue on their return to the UK.
Mr Potter, who was blown up while waiting for his daughter after the concert, said: ‘The security services must have known the Abedis had gone to Libya to fight. They’ve got questions to answer about why they let them back in the UK as free men.
‘The security services should have questioned the Abedis about what they were doing in Libya, at the very least. They should have been taken back to Libya and not allowed into Britain.’
Adam Lawler, 16, pictured, who lost his best friend in the attack said Abedi should have been left behind in Libya or kept under surveillance by the security authorities
Adam Lawler, 16, who lost his best friend Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, in the bombing and was seriously injured himself, said: ‘The Royal Navy did their job and extracted the British citizens, but the security services should have corroborated their suspicions with his location and placed him under surveillance or ultimately left him in Libya.
‘I am not shocked Abedi betrayed British help – he was in Libya to train, he wanted to come back here to murder.’
Referring to Abedi, Lord West, a former head of the Navy, said it took a ‘twisted’ person to kill those who had helped you.
‘It is a pretty loathsome person who reaches out so you can rescue them and so you do and they decide to blow up your citizens,’ he said.
Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, 29, who was killed in the atrocity, tweeted: ‘They [the Navy] were doing their job and nobody could have foreseen that the devil incarnate was among these people. Absence of humanity/conscience is invisible.’
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the revelations that the Navy rescued Abedi only for him to go on to kill British citizens could only add to ‘people’s sense of abhorrence’.
‘This news is very painful for the families of those who died, those injured or affected by the attack and everyone in Greater Manchester to hear,’ he said.
‘It is hard enough to think that someone born and raised here could go on to commit such an atrocity, but to discover that this individual’s personal safety was secured by British Armed Forces will only increase people’s sense of utter abhorrence.’
Security minister Ben Wallace said: ‘Corbyn and his cronies often try to link terrorist attacks to UK foreign policy.
‘The Manchester bomber was saved, sheltered and supported by the United Kingdom when we went to the aid of the people of Libya. His thanks was to attack our citizens. It has nothing to do with foreign policy and everything to do with the twisted ideology of Daesh [Islamic State] and Al Qaeda.’
Referring to the time of the bomber’s rescue from Libya, Whitehall sources said: ‘Salman Abedi was not a national security threat at that time.
‘The scope for [the Anderson report] was to look at what was known beforehand and decisions made in relation to intelligence.
‘It was not to look into his journeys to and from Libya, of which there were many.’
A defence source said: ‘There was no conspiracy, it was just irrelevant to the investigation.’
David Anderson – now Lord Anderson, a crossbench peer – declined to comment when asked if he knew about the Royal Navy rescue when he compiled the report and why it was omitted.
Brother of Manchester bomber ‘tells family he is scared of extradition to Britain’, Libyan militia forces say
The brother of the Manchester bomber has apparently told family he is afraid of extradition to Britain.
Hashem Abedi, 21, is scared about being put on trial, according to the Libyan militia forces holding him in the capital Tripoli.
Their spokesman, Ahmed bin Salem, claimed Hashem had confessed to helping his brother Salman kill 22 at the Manchester Arena concert last May.
Hashem Abedi, 21, brother of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi has claimed he is afraid to be extradited to the UK to face terrorism charges
The UK government requested his extradition last October from the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. But the high-level negotiations appear to have stalled.
And in May Libyan judicial sources told the Mail that Hashem could escape justice by refusing to face trial in the UK. His opposition to being extradited might hold weight because he has joint Libyan citizenship, a source said.
Mr Salem suggested however that Hashem, who was born in Manchester to Libyan migrants, might not be able to veto any attempt to bring him to Britain. ‘He was afraid and he didn’t want the Libyan Government to hand him over to Britain,’ he said. ‘He was very scared and the matter was still very hot but the decision is not in his hands. To me it’s obvious he has committed a crime in Britain – of course he wouldn’t want to be handed to them.’
Hashem is believed to have played a key role in the attack in May last year, including helping to buy materials for the homemade bomb set off by his brother Salman.
He has also been linked to a plot to kill Peter Millett, the UK’s former envoy to Libya. It is alleged he was in a four-man cell planning to carry out the attack using a suicide bomb.
It was claimed they also plotted to kill former UN envoy Martin Kobler and Libya’s prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj. Mr Salem said: ‘This case is quite difficult, it is not going to be that easy for Hashem to be handed over. He is a Libyan citizen and yes although he is a British national as well, it is considered that he has also committed a crime here in Libya.’
Mr Salem said the decision over Hashem’s future was for the Libyan government to decide and not his militia: ‘The decision to hand him over is not in our hands.’
But he said his Special Deterrence Force unit would willingly release Hashem from its jail, which is holding around 250 Islamic State suspects, should they be asked to do so. He said: ‘We cannot say no. What concerns us is that we want to reassure the British people.
‘I understand so many innocent lives were lost, and the British people feel they we are not giving them the justice they are seeking because they presume that because he is a Libyan citizen and currently in Libya that we are providing him a safe haven.
Salman Abedi, pictured, murdered 22 people during a terrorism attack on the Manchester Arena
‘On the contrary. We do want him to face justice.
‘Our main concern is that he does face justice no matter if it is in Libya or Britain.’
Of Hashem’s brother, he added: ‘It is unfortunate that they had accommodated Salman for several years in their country and he has the British passport and he committed such a thing to a country that sheltered him and served him and that he would blow himself up and that he would kill innocent children.
‘Even his own family were shocked. We met with them and have spoken to them.’
Mr Salem said there was enough evidence to convict Hashem, and he had ‘confessed to everything’.
He added: ‘He is facing two things. Either he is going to be tried in Libya or he is going to be tried in Britain. If the British government and the Libyan government reach an agreement for handing him over he will be then tried in Britain.’
He denied any suggestion that Hashem could have been tortured into confessing his role in the Manchester attack. And he said the suspect did not get his warped ideology from Libya: ‘He was watching a lot of the videos on YouTube, watching videos of children in Iraq and Syria.’
The SDF has been tasked by the Tripoli government with hunting down Islamic State fighters.