U.S. military officials stationed in the Africa Command recently shared information with British intelligence regarding the previous whereabouts of Salman Abedi, the young man identified as the Manchester bomber responsible for carrying out Monday’s deadly attack at an Ariana Grande concert. Since described as a terrorist attack by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Abedi’s plot was reportedly preceded by a three-week trip to Libya and may have been aided by members of his family.
According to CNN, U.S. officials have “high confidence” in their intelligence, which may help investigators better determine what Abedi was doing during the weeks prior to Monday’s bombing:
All of this is raising questions about Abedi’s travel route and how aware British authorities were of him and his movements in recent weeks. The US officials say it’s possible Abedi could have traveled from the UK to a nearby country such as Tunisia, which perhaps would not have raised the same red flags as a direct route.
It’s relatively easy to cross the Libya-Tunisia border over land. It’s also possible to travel via commercial air routes into Libya from a UK departure point.
Considering that a full-scale analysis of this intelligence (and others) is underway, however, CNN’s sources note, “Any new information could change the current view.” Like a Reuters report that indicating Abedi’s younger brother was arrested by counter-terrorism police in Tripoli for suspected links to ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for Monday’s bombing. Libyan security forces also arrested the boys’ father and reportedly claimed the younger brother “was aware of all the details” pertaining to attack plans.
As these various details came together throughout the day on Wednesday, British officials told the press of their growing investigation into Abedi’s apparent “network.” Per the New York Times, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said, “It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own.” Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins confirmed her statement, saying their efforts amounted to an “extensive investigation” into what appeared to be a “network.”
While Libyan forces located and arrested Abedi’s family members in Tripoli, British personnel “were raiding a house in the city center” of Manchester. These efforts on Wednesday led to the arrests of four men, including one in the town of Wigan to the northwest. Meanwhile, the Times offered translations of a Facebook post made by Libya’s Special Deterrence Forces, the group that arrested Abedi’s father and younger brother:
[The post] said that Hashem Abedi had been a member of the Islamic State, had been involved with the Manchester plot, and was en route to withdrawing 4,500 Libyan dinars (about $560) sent by Salman Abedi when he was arrested on Tuesday night by the militia. The militia also said that the younger brother traveled from Britain to Libya on April 16, and that he had been in daily contact by phone with Salman Abedi since then. The militia also said the younger brother was planning a new attack, in Tripoli.
Although the militia is affiliated with the Government of National Accord, which is supported by the United Nations, their claims regarding the Abedi family could not be confirmed.