MANCHESTER: British police revealed the Manchester suicide bomber’s petty criminal past yesterday as the train station next to the scene of last week’s attack reopened for the first time since the carnage at a pop concert that left 22 people dead. Police said 22-year-old bomber Salman Abedi had appeared in police records over theft, receiving stolen goods and assault in 2012 but was never flagged up for any radical views.
“He was known to the police for some relatively minor matters,” Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins told BBC radio, as questions grew over whether intelligence services missed any vital clues. “I am not privy to what the security service did or didn’t know about the individual at this time,” Hopkins said, following a report in the Mail on Sunday that US authorities had previously warned Britain’s MI5 intelligence service about Abedi.
As the investigation continued, Manchester-born Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was to make his solo debut later yesterday with a charity concert, the latest in a flood of tributes in Britain’s third-largest city for the victims of last Monday’s attack. “We Will Remember You”, read signs accompanied by heart images and surrounded by floral tributes at Manchester Victoria station as service resumed. “I think it will take a long time to get back to normal. There’s still a weird feeling, you know, armed police, a lot of unease,” said 59-year-old David Keys as he got off a train.
Sharon Glyn, 48, said she felt “goosebumps” as her train pulled into the station, while 29-year-old Andrew Shivas said: “Can’t let them win.” The station is connected to the Manchester Arena, one of Europe’s biggest indoor venues, by a covered space that was the scene of Monday’s blast, in which 116 people were also injured. Most of the victims were young people attending a concert by US pop idol Ariana Grande which had just finished, and parents waiting to meet their children.
DNA on suitcase?
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Abedi, a Manchester-born university dropout of Libyan origin, reportedly fought in the Libyan conflict to topple former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. His brother Hashem and father Ramadan have been arrested in Libya, where authorities say the two brothers were both IS jihadists. Fourteen more people are being held in Britain and police have released a security camera image of Abedi carrying a large blue suitcase, appealing for any information about where Abedi might have been with it.
Police were seen searching through a rubbish dump near Manchester on Monday. “We are just trying to make sure we capture everything that he has discarded so we can then see what the significance is. Has it (the suitcase) got DNA on it of people that may have helped him? Has it material he may have used?” Hopkins said. Hopkins said the “big piece of work” for the future would be “working with our young people and trying to get to the heart of why people are feeling isolated and why they are subject to being influenced in this way and radicalized”.
Britain’s terror threat level was raised to maximum in the wake of the attack but lowered again over the weekend, while armed soldiers deployed to assist police patrols were being pulled back. Prime Minister Theresa May has come under heavy criticism for drastic cuts in police numbers during her time as interior minister, as campaigning resumed ahead of a general election next week. May has said that while overall numbers of officers have gone down, budgets for counter-terrorism policing have risen.
‘Help pick people up’
Ahead of Tuesday’s concert, 44-year-old Gallagher told the Manchester Evening News: “I want to try and help pick people up.” Gallagher said proceeds from his show would go to a Red Cross-supported appeal for victims that has already raised millions of pounds. Gallagher has a rocky relationship with his older brother Noel, who played guitar for Oasis and wrote most of the band’s hits. They parted ways in 2009. A tweet from Liam on Monday wishing his brother a happy birthday had fans speculating on social media that a hoped-for reunion could be on the cards. – AFP