Ariana Grande concert bomber Salman Abedi was on UK security service’s radar at least 18 times before he killed 22 people in his 2017 terror attack, according to a public inquiry.
Abedi, 22, first came to MI5’s attention in 2010, and was repeatedly connected to six “subjects of interest” — including a man tied to al-Qaeda and another with “links to a senior figure” in ISIS, the inquiry revealed, according to The Times of London.
He was himself made a “subject of interest” (SOI) in 2014 because of links to an ISIS recruiter, the report said.
The investigation was closed the same year, however, because there was “no intelligence indicating that he posed a threat to national security,” Cathryn McGahey, a lawyer for the UK’s Home Office, said.
Abedi’s name continued to be raised to agents, including from 2015 when he made at least two separate prison visits to a convicted terrorist.
Abedi also raised suspicion in 2016 when he traveled to Istanbul, a known gateway for extremists heading to ISIS in Syria, the inquiry heard.
By mid-2016, there was enough concern that the agency decided to review whether to open a full investigation into him and again mark him as an SOI, the inquiry was told.
That decision was put off to be made at a meeting scheduled for May 31, 2017 — nine days after his devastating suicide bombing at Grande’s show at the Manchester Arena, the UK Times noted.
Another 237 concertgoers were injured and 670 survivors reported suffering from psychological trauma. Pop superstar Grande has also said she suffers PTSD.
MI5 now concedes that what had seemed “innocent activity” or “non-terrorist criminality” now appears relevant to his concert attack prep, the inquiry was reportedly told.
Despite being a public inquiry, some evidence was held behind closed doors to preserve MI5’s secrecy — the first time an inquiry into a terrorist attack on mainland Britain has been held partly in secret, the paper said.
“There is no question of secrecy being used to conceal failure”, McGahey told the hearing. “MI5 has nothing to hide from this inquiry.”
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