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Details Emerge About Ariana Grande Concert Bomber, Three More Arrests Made
British investigators angry that U.S. intelligence revealed bomber Salman Abedi's name mid-probe.
Update: The Washington Post reports that counterterrorism authorities in Libya have arrested at least two members of Abedi's family, including younger brother Hashem Abedi, who is suspected of plotting an attack in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Hashem was taken into custody on Tuesday (May 23) and the brother's father, Ramadan, was arrested on Wednesday (May 24). A spokesman for the country's Reda Force counterterrorism squad said Hashem was in frequent contact with his brother and was aware of his plans to attack the concert.
Speaking to the Associated Press before his arrest, Ramadan Abedi said he was in contact with bomber son Salman five days before the attack, describing him as sounding "normal." He added, "we don't believe in killing innocents... this is not us."
British officials are starting to piece together a more detailed profile of the 22-year-old man behind Monday's terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. The suspect, British-born national of Libyan descent Salman Abedi, died in the bombing that took place less than four miles from the home he shared with his family.
CNN reported that British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Abedi -- who recently returned to the UK from Libya -- had been on the intelligence service's radar before the incident that killed 22 and injured at least 59 at Manchester Arena on Monday night (May 22). "The intelligence services know a lot of people, and I'm sure we will find out more what level they knew about him in due course, but at the moment all they have confirmed is that they did know about him," she said. Though ISIS claimed in a Telegram that he was a "soldier of the caliphate," officials have not been able to confirm any connection to the terror organization.
Abedi was a student at University of Salford in Manchester, where he was studying business and management and though enrolled in the current academic year he had not been attending classes. A longtime family friend who has known Abedi since childhood told CNN that the bomber had begun to dress "Islamically," in a long robe, in recent years and was growing a beard.
Forensics experts searched Abedi's home on Tuesday, blowing the door off a red brick building in south Manchester as 20 heavily-armed officers searched the premises, as well as a second residence nearby where one of Abedi's brothers lives.
The New York Times, quoted a senior member of the Manchester Muslim community and a law enforcement official who said Abedi had been barred from the local mosque in 2015 for expressing support for the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), at which point he got on the radar of the nation's intelligence services.
In a nod to fears that Abedi -- who is known to have traveled to Libya several times -- might not have been working alone, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday (May 23) that the nation's threat level had been raised from "severe" to "critical." As part of their probe, police arrested three unnamed men in south Manchester on Wednesday in addition to a 23-year-old man taken into custody on Tuesday. Security in the nation has been ramped up significantly in the wake of the attack, with up to 1,000 military personnel deployed on the streets to compliment police as part of "Operation Temperer," with soldiers taking up position outside of Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Downing Street among other high-profile spots.
Security experts told the Times that Abedi's deployment of an improvised explosive device outside the Arena showed a level of sophistication that implied he had collaborators and the possibility that other bombs had been made at the same time. “It was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before, and it seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” Rudd said on Wednesday.
In yet another headache for the U.S. intelligence community, Rudd said it was "irritating" that U.S. law enforcement sources released information about the bombing on Monday before British police had cleared the details, saying she has made it clear to her American colleagues that it "should not happen again." Rudd told BBC Radio 4's "Today" show that "British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise." She would not go so far as to say the leaks compromised the investigation.
Medics said on Wednesday that at least 20 victims remain in "critical care" with "horrific injuries" that include organ damage and potential loss of limbs, according to The Telegraph. Thousands of Mancunians gathered during a vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday night in a defiant show of support for the victims during which they carried "I heart Manchester" banners and laid flowers at a nearby makeshift memorial.