In the latest example of conflicting narratives about the Manchester arena bombing, Libyan authorities are claiming Salman Abedi’s younger brother Hashem (^ right) facilitated the attack, which is in stark contrast to the findings of the ongoing police investigation.
One May 31, quotes from Russ Jackson, head of Britain’s North West counter terrorism unit, were widely reported. He claimed their “enquires” revealed “Abedi himself made most of the purchases of the core [bomb] components and what is becoming apparent is that many of his movements and actions have been carried out alone.”
Today however Ahmed Bin Salem, a spokesperson for Tripoli’s Special Deterrance Force says Hashem claims he was the one who “bought all the necessary things” to carry out the attack.
It obviously can’t be both.
So are the British police lying, are the Libyan authorities lying, or is Hashem lying to or being manipulated by his captors?
Bin Salem of the UN backed Tripoli unit has been feeding the media lots of information since the family were picked up, some which contrasts with earlier information.
For example father Ramadan said he thought his son was innocent of the pop concert bombing. “He sounded normal,” in the days prior and “there was nothing worrying at all.”
He said: “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us … We aren’t the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents.”
“My message to the world is that there are hidden hands that want to tarnish the image of Muslims who live in the west,” he concluded.
Did he think Salman was caught up in some kind of false flag operation?
Right after the interview (which has since curiously been memory-holed by the Associated Press), the elder Abedi and Hashem were detained by the Special Deterrance Force, while the mother and sister were also ‘brought in for questioning.’
Bin Salem then claims Hashem revealed he knew about the plot and facilitated it in April before the brothers flew to Libya. Salem also says mother Samia received a ‘farewell’ phone call on the day of the bombing. (Salman had allegedly flown back to the UK without Hashem and was supposed to be planning a trip to Saudi Arabia).
“The mother told us Salman said, ‘I’m sorry mum. You have to forgive me’, before hanging up … she was very surprised and confused and didn’t understand what was going on.”
It’s not clear if there are phone records of the call to support the claim.
Interestingly there is no news on father Ramadan or whether he changed his tune once detained, but his original comments are clearly at odds with those attributed to his son and wife. Perhaps he knows to keep his mouth shut, something that would be wise in all conceivable scenarios.
The conflicting narratives don’t end there …
The Libyans are also now suggesting that Salman was not radicalized in Libya or Syria, but in Manchester over the internet.
“Hashem said that he and Salman got the ideology of Daesh (Islamic State) in Manchester in 2015 from the internet and some friends in the UK.”
“[Hashem] added that they used to watch videos and had sympathy for children in Syria and wanted to do something for Daesh to help.”
This ‘blowback’ motive was also allegedly suggested by the sister, who told the Wall Street Journal: “I think he saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge … He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge. Whether he got that is between him and God.”
This is particularly confusing. If he was angry at the US, attacking an American’s concert does make some sense. However the conflict in Syria is very complex, with Assad’s forces, ISIS, and western airstrikes all reportedly killing civilians at various stages. In fact the west’s covert operations arguably gave rise to ISIS in the first place, because they were so hell-bent on regime change.
Of course that doesn’t mean college dropout Salman understood these intricacies or was immune to ISIS propaganda and brainwashing, but he was not an angry Syrian citizen wanting revenge for UK forces invading his country. He was a Libyan that grew up in the UK and was part of a family and community of MI6-backed anti-Gaddafi extremist dissidents. He also did not publicly address his so called concern for Syrian children publicly – no social media postings, no angry ranting, no martyrdom tape, no manifesto – any message he allegedly wanted to make, wasn’t made.
It’s still too early to come to a solid conclusion about what any of this means, but the ‘official story’ about how this atrocity came about and what actually happened, just gets murkier and murkier. Ultimately there isn’t really an official story, just conflicting information and the assertion that Salman Abedi was the willing culprit.