Libya Tribune

By Nazia Parveen & Amy Walker

Hashem Abedi was accused of helping to plan terror attack in which 22 died at Ariana Grande concert.

The brother of the Manchester Arena bomber has been found guilty of the murder of 22 people and helping to plan one of the deadliest terror attacks the UK has ever seen.

Hashem Abedi was not in court to hear the unanimous verdict after deciding earlier in the week to withdraw himself from the proceedings, sacking his entire defence team.

As each victim’s name was read out the jury returned a guilty verdict, with family members becoming emotional and heard crying in the courtroom.

Following the verdict, a counter-terrorism chief said the 22-year-old was driven by a “sick ideology” and would not have stopped his murderous activities until he was caught.

DCS Simon Barraclough, the senior investigating officer on the night of the attack, said Abedi had shown “not one jot of emotion” or remorse throughout the trial.

He is a man who is equally responsible as his brother for this horrendous attack, this monstrous attack. The way he has conducted himself since he landed demonstrates even more the jihadi mindset that would be supportive of the sick ideology of IS [Islamic State],” he added.

The suicide bombing, the worst terror attack on UK soil since the 7/7 attacks, was detonated by Abedi’s older brother, Salman, and Abedi had attempted to point the finger of blame at his dead sibling.

However, it emerged that the defendant had stood shoulder to shoulder with his brother, acting as quartermaster, chauffeur and technician and sharing a common goal to kill and maim as many people as possible in the attack after an Ariana Grande concert.

Speaking after the verdict, Paul Hett, whose son Martyn, 29, was murdered in the blast, thanked police, security services and the jury for bringing Abedi to justice.

He said: “This verdict will not bring back the 22 victims murdered by Salman and Hashem Abedi. Nor will it … heal the wounds of the 264 people physically injured in the attack, many of whom with life-changing injuries. And this verdict will not help over 670 people who suffered psychological trauma after the attack, many still suffering today.

But what this verdict will do is give an overwhelming sense of justice to all those affected by this heinous crime.”

Hashem Abedi, who was 19 at the time of the bombing, spent months working alongside his brother collecting ingredients and building prototype bombs.

During the six-week trial, one of the biggest terror trials ever held on UK soil, the jury were told that the brothers began showing signs of radicalisation after their parents returned to Libya, planning the attack when they were living alone in their family home in south Manchester.

Abedi, alongside his brother, acquired the ingredients – “precursor chemicals” – for the bomb by creating fictitious online accounts and using the bank details and Amazon accounts of unsuspecting friends and family.

The brothers’ cover story was that they needed to refill a large electric battery at the family home in Libya that was used to power a generator.

Meanwhile, Abedi, who had studied electrical installation, began collecting empty metal vegetable oil cans from a Stockport pizza takeaway he was working at under the guise that he would sell them for scrap. However, Abedi went on to use these containers to make a number of prototype improvised explosive devices.

A month before the attack, the brothers, by now having built up a stockpile of chemicals at two addresses in south Manchester, would be forced to hurriedly move the bomb-making ingredients.

On 6 April 2017, their parents, Ramadan and Samia, arrived in the UK for a brief visit and the brothers were told they would be returning to Libya on one-way tickets in a matter of days on plane tickets bought by their older sibling, Ismail.

Given their impending departure and fearing that their plans were about to be foiled, the brothers could no longer use various addresses to store the materials for their explosives.

Forty-eight hours before their departure, they made a late-night purchase of a white Nissan Micra. The car was subsequently parked at a car park near the siblings’ home, and they transferred chemicals and shrapnel to the car. Hours later, the pair departed for Libya with their parents.

Four days before the attack, Salman returned to Manchester alone. “All Salman needed to do was collect what he needed from the Micra … source some parts necessary to make the bomb viable, and find somewhere suitable both to construct it and to detonate it,” said the prosecutor, Duncan Penny.

CCTV footage showed him methodically making the final preparations for the attack, carrying out a number of reconnaissance missions to the music venue, where he would eventually detonate his lethal home-made bomb.

Minutes before the blast, according to Libyan authorities, Abedi phoned his mother and younger brother in Tripoli. The purpose of the call, according to one official, was to ask forgiveness for what he was about to do.

Stills from the night showed 22-year-old carrying a rucksack and silently watching and waiting in the City Room – an assembly point for concertgoers and their families – for an hour before eventually detonating his device.

The explosive packed with screws and bolts for shrapnel detonated at the exact moment when thousands of men, women and children streamed out at the end of the concert shortly after 10.30pm on 22 May 2017.

Of the 22 casualties, 19 died at the scene and three more were treated by members of the public and the emergency services but later died. Police went on to identify nearly 1,000 victims of the attack, including 28 people who were very seriously injured, 111 others who were treated in hospital and 670 who have reported psychological trauma.

The day after the bombing, Abedi was arrested in Libya alongside his father, Ramadan, who was released without charge. It would take more than two years for British diplomats to secure his extradition.

Abedi maintained he had nothing to do with making the bomb and had “no inkling” of his brother’s radicalisation.

His fingerprints and DNA were found on a number of significant items, including pieces of metal tightly rolled into improvised cylinders and a rented flat where traces of a homemade explosive were discovered. Phone records also linked him to the atrocity.

Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council, said the bombing had shocked the city but that there had been a “remarkable spirit of solidarity” and the city stood together refusing to give in to terrorists who want to stoke hatred and division.

I hope the fact that one of those behind this callous attack has been brought to justice will provide some measure of comfort to all those affected,” he said.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, of Greater Manchester police, said: “Although he was in Libya at the time of the attack, Hashem Abedi is every bit as guilty as his dead brother and this is reflected in the judgment we see today.”

He added: “In the last few weeks Abedi absented himself from court, such was the contempt he showed for the proceedings and all those so deeply affected by this cowardly act.We are very pleased at this verdict.”

Abedi will be sentenced at a later date for 22 counts of murder, one of attempted murder encompassing the injured survivors, and conspiring with his brother to cause explosions.

***

Nazia Parveen is one of the North of England correspondents of the Guardian, based in Manchester.

Amy Walker is a Guardian journalist who received the Scott Trust bursary in 2017

___________

The Guardian