U.K. investigators detained the father and a brother of the suspected Manchester concert bomber, and are beginning to form a broader picture of the network 22-year-old Salman Abedi tapped into in war-torn Libya — a haven for extremist training.
The chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police said yesterday it is “very clear this is a network we are investigating” in the probe of Abedi’s comings and goings prior to the Monday night suicide attack that killed 22 and wounded scores more outside an Ariana Grande concert.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said yesterday Abedi “likely” did not act alone.
Former Boston police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said that, as was the case in the marathon bombing probe, investigators probably now have enough forensic clues from the crime scene to extrapolate Abedi’s likely itinerary before the horrific blast.
“Now that they’ve had a day or two to look at that, they’re focused on communications, analyzing computers or telephones that the suspect may have had access to, and really drilling down into what the resource is and the people he associated with, try to build a picture,” Davis said.
Five additional arrests were made in Britain yesterday as the sprawling investigation extended to Libya, where Abedi’s father and 18-year-old brother were detained in Tripoli.
Ramadan Abedi denied his son Salman had links to militants in an interview with The Associated Press before he was taken into custody, saying, “We don’t believe in killing innocents.”
That defense carried eerie echoes of the responses of some of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s relatives in Russia after the marathon bombings. Davis said it’s possible Abedi’s father did not know what his son was up to.
“When a horrific crime occurs, often family members are shocked by it and deny it and will do everything that they can to say that it couldn’t be possible,” Davis said. “Many times the authorities have much more information about what happened than the family does.”
The Libyan anti-terror force that detained the two Abedis said in a statement that the brother, Hashim Abedi, confessed he and Salman were linked to the Islamic State group and that he was aware of the arena bombing plan. It said the father had not been charged but was taken in for questioning.
A second brother, Ismail Abedi, 23, had been taken into custody in Manchester a day earlier.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Salman Abedi was believed to have traveled to Syria and had “proven” links to ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
Among investigators’ areas of interest is how often Abedi traveled to Libya. Abedi’s father said his son was getting ready to visit Saudi Arabia for a short Umrah pilgrimage then planned to head to Libya to spend the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with his family.
Ramadan Abedi also said his son last visited Libya about six weeks ago and had never gone to Syria. He denied ties to any militant groups or suggestions of extremism.
“We aren’t the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents,” he said. “We go to mosques. We recite Quran, but not that.”
British officials said yesterday that all the bombing victims have been identified, but their names were being withheld until autopsies were completed.
Still, some additional victims’ stories began to emerge yesterday: Michelle Kiss, a mother of three; Nell Jones, an “always smiling” teenager; Martyn Hett, who packed life “to the brim with his passions;” and Jane Tweddle, a “bubbly, kind, welcoming” receptionist. The youngest known of those killed was 8.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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