Manchester bomber friend known to MI5, BBC reveals

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04 Mar 2023, 2:31 pm

Manchester bomber friend known to MI5, BBC reveals

A Muslim preacher who was close to the Manchester bomber had been suspected by MI5 of radicalising people more than a decade earlier, the BBC can reveal.

A public inquiry into the atrocity will this week report on how Salman Abedi was radicalised, and whether security services missed chances to stop him.

The preacher, Mansour Al-Anezi, had been investigated before another close associate of his tried to carry out a suicide bombing in Exeter in 2008.

Al-Anezi died before the arena attack.

Twenty two people died in the bombing at the Manchester Arena in May 2017 - at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. Secret hearings, which excluded victims' families, discussed evidence from MI5 about Abedi and associates who were known to the security service.

A BBC investigation has identified information that did not appear in the public hearings - and might not have appeared in the closed sessions either.

Suicide bombings, both actual and attempted, are rare in the UK. In the past 15 years, the only two confirmed incidents were the Manchester and Exeter bombings.

An explosion in a Liverpool taxi in 2021, which killed the bomb maker, has not been publicly confirmed as an intentional suicide bombing.

The fact that both Manchester and Exeter involved associates of Al-Anezi could be a coincidence. But the BBC has discovered that the authorities were investigating him as a suspected radicaliser before the Exeter attack.

The officer who led the Manchester investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, told the arena inquiry that the relationship between Al-Anezi and Salman Abedi was "clearly a connection of significance", but police were unable to establish exactly what it was.

The inquiry also heard Al-Anzei had been arrested in connection with the Exeter attack. But the public hearings were not told he was investigated by MI5 before that.

The preacher, who was not charged, regularly led prayers at a Plymouth mosque frequented by the bomber, a Muslim convert called Nicky Reilly, then aged 22.

Reilly had learning difficulties and Asperger's Syndrome. His family considered him vulnerable and influenced by people he met.

He was the only one injured when a nail-bomb partially exploded in the toilet of a busy restaurant as he was preparing to detonate three devices.

He died in prison in 2016.

Salman Abedi carried out the Manchester Arena bombing on the ninth anniversary of the Exeter attack.


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