News and Commentary

Everything You Need To Know About The Manchester Bomber … And His Terror Cell

Against the backdrop of vigils mourning the deaths of children as young as eight, British police are hunting down anyone who may be connected to Monday night’s massacre in Manchester.

All available evidence suggests that 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi wasn’t working alone. ISIS has already taken responsibility for the attack, calling the attacker a “soldier of the caliphate.” But terrorism analysts have been noticing a series of inconsistencies in the statements released by the Islamic State in the hours after Abedi detonated his explosive device, killing himself for the cause of jihad against the “crusaders” and “polytheists” (terms ISIS used to label the prepubescent, non-Muslim victims).

Here’s what we know so far:

Abedi was almost certainly working with some sort of jihadi network. Both the sophistication of the bomb used in the attack and the logistics of the attack indicate that far more than one person was involved in the planning.

Most of disturbing of all, the bomb maker behind the attack still appears to be on the loose.

“Intelligence services now believe that Salman Abedi, who detonated the nail bomb in the foyer of the venue, was a ‘mule’ using a device made by someone else,” explains The Manchester Evening News.

Ultimately, the bomb make may be far more lethal than Abedi himself.

“I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins said Wednesday. “And as I’ve said, it continues at a pace. There’s extensive investigations going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.”

Police have carried out a series of raids targeting Abedi’s apparent network as investigators gather information from the suicide bomber’s residence. “Four men were arrested on Wednesday — three in the city center and one in Wigan, a town to the northwest — bringing the total number of people in custody to five, including Mr. Abedi’s older brother,” notes The New York Times. “In Libya, Mr. Abedi’s father was arrested by a militia, the Special Deterrence Forces, which said it had also detained Mr. Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem Abedi, 20.”

According to Libyan security forces, Abedi’s younger brother Hashem “was fully aware of the details” of the Manchester attack. Not only did Hashem confess “to his presence in Britain during the preparation period” of the attack, but he may have been planning another attack himself, added the Libyans in a Facebook post detailing the arrest.

Here’s the Facebook post itself. The post is originally in Arabic. The rough translation below comes courtesy of Google.

Prior to being arrested himself, Abedi’s father reportedly denied that his children were behind any attacks, claiming that they know better than to target innocents.

But British intelligence believes that jihad was a family affair.

In fact, Abedi’s father admitted that his son recently went to Libya before returning to his native Manchester. The son of Libyan Muslim immigrants, Abedi was known to British law enforcement prior to the attack. However, intelligence services eventually deemed him to be a low-risk threat.

“Abedi was a terrorist suspect in the U.K., MI5 were aware of him,” Robin Simcox, a terrorism and national security analyst at The Heritage Foundation told ABC News. “They were aware that he posed a potential threat but they didn’t think he posed an imminent threat that he proved himself to do in Manchester.

The “known wolf” profile is becoming a cliché at this point. From Brussels to Paris to Manchester, European security officials have dropped the ball, allowing suspected jihadists to operate freely in the days and weeks leading up to major terror attacks.

Indeed, Abedi’s travel itinerary alone paints the portrait of a jihadist planning to carry out an imminent attack on British soil.

According to French interior minister Gerard Collomb, Abedi was known to have links to the Islamic State. How do the French know this? French intelligence believe that Abedi may have not only traveled to Libya, where the Islamic State once had a foothold in the port city of Sirte, but visited Syria as well, where ISIS has established its de facto capital.