‘I don’t want to go’: Manchester bomber’s brother feared Libya-UK extradition
Hashem Abedi learned from his parents that he would be extradited to Britain to face trial for his alleged involvement in the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist bombing, according to a spokesman for the prison where he has been held since the attack.
Abedi’s parents, Ramadan and Samia, were allowed into the Mitiga Prison in Tripoli, Libya for a family visit to inform their son that he will travel to the UK to face the charges for the attack by their older son Salman Abedi, which left 22 dead and maimed hundreds at an Ariane Grande pop concert. The attack was claimed by ISIS.
After being told the news, Abedi, who is 22, broke down and begged: “I don’t want to go,” according to Ahmed ben Salem, spokesman for the Al Radaa for Countering Organized Crime & Terrorism (Radaa), the organization formerly known as the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) which detained Abedi.
Radaa is loyal to the Tripoli–based UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). The GNA is unable to rule Tripoli by itself and relies on alliances with a variety of militias, some of which have been accused of being extremist groups.
Speaking by phone from Tripoli, Radaa spokesman ben Salem described Abedi’s reaction to the news he would be extradited: “He kept saying ‘I don’t want to go’ and repeated this to his family and everyone in the prison. He was in a state of shock and he was worried because he felt that everyone was so angry at him in Great Britain because of what his brother had done.”
British citizen Abedi was alleged, in a short UK court hearing this week, to have made detonating tubes for the bomb, bought chemicals used to make an explosive substance, and helped his brother to buy a car in which parts of the device were stored.
Prosecutor Kathryn Selby told the court that Abedi had been charged with 22 counts of murder, a count of attempted murder, and conspiring with his brother to cause explosions.
Ten of those who died were aged under 20, with the youngest victim, Saffie Roussos, only eight years old.
The court heard 260 people were seriously injured following the blast. At least 600 people reported psychological harm.
Lawyers for Abedi indicated he would plead not guilty, although no formal pleas were made. His case will eventually be held at the Old Bailey court in London, where the most serious criminal offenses in the UK are tried.
Inquests into the killings have been on hold until criminal proceedings against Abedi are concluded.
“I know what my brother did”
Ben Salem said that Abedi, who was born and raised in Manchester, was flown out of Libya in a state of considerable trepidation. “He said to me: ‘I know what my brother did, I know how many died, and they will hate me in Britain because of this.’
The spokesman also added that claims that British authorities were able to extradite Hashem only after striking a military and intelligence agreement to protect the Libyan capital were not true. “The Libyan government was doing its job by the law and we respect the courts,” he said.
Radaa held Abedi in solitary confinement for two years in Libya's Mitiga Prison, along with up to 500 suspected ISIS terrorists, while his father was released.
Some of the inmates at the prison are so dangerous that, due to the civil war in Libya, American and British Special Forces soldiers are reportedly on 24-hour standby to prevent any escape from the prison in the event of Tripoli lurching into further chaos.
There has been a resurgence of ISIS activity in Libya in recent months. This month a video released by the extremist group showed masked gunmen pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi south of the country, and vowing to carry out attacks against the GNA’s opponent the Libyan National Army (LNA).
On May 23, 2017, the day after the deadly suicide attack by Salman Abedi in Manchester, ISIS claimed the attack was carried out by “a soldier of the Khilafah” [ISIS caliphate]. The message called the attack “an endeavor to terrorize the mushrikun [non-believers] in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims.”
Numerous theories were put forward about Salman Abedi’s connections to ISIS cells in the UK and Libya, but none have been substantiated as yet.
Asked if any definite connection had been made between the Abedi family and ISIS operators and recruiters during the arrest and interrogation of Hashem and his father, the Radaa spokesman replied, “Such matters should wait until the trial.”
Abedi’s father had claimed that Salman was innocent despite Greater Manchester Police confirming his son’s identity as the bomber.
Hashem is due to next appear at Oxford Crown Court on July 22 for a bail hearing.