MI5 downgraded intelligence on Manchester Arena bomber, inquiry hears

11 months ago 123

A elder MI5 serviceman has told the Manchester Arena enquiry that the quality bureau downgraded what turned retired to beryllium “highly relevant” grounds astir the termination bomber Salman Abedi.

Speaking from down woody screens, the officer, named lone arsenic Witness J, said determination were 2 pieces of quality received by MI5 astir Abedi successful the months earlier the onslaught which were assessed astatine the clip to subordinate to perchance non-nefarious oregon non-terrorist criminality.

Only aft Abedi detonated the weaponry which killed himself and 22 concert-goers did MI5 realise the grounds was important.

“Looking back, you tin spot it was quality that was highly applicable to the planned attack,” Witness J told the nationalist enquiry into the atrocity connected Monday.

Giving grounds wrong a bespoke woody container to support his anonymity, the serviceman offered to stock the grounds with the enquiry lone successful a closed session, distant from reporters and victims’ families.

The enquiry heard MI5 archetypal received accusation astir Abedi connected 30 December 2010, the time earlier his 16th birthday, but determination was “nothing to suggest” past that helium was a hazard to nationalist security.

From December 2013 to January 2017, helium was successful nonstop interaction with 3 men, each abstracted “subjects of interest” – 1 suspected of readying question to Syria, 1 with links to al-Qaida and the 3rd with links to extremists successful Libya.

And betwixt April 2016 and April 2017, a period earlier the attack, helium had interaction with 3 much subjects of interest, each with suspected links to the Islamic State panic group.

Intelligence connected Abedi came successful close up to the months earlier helium blew himself up with a homemade weaponry packed with shrapnel successful the foyer of Manchester Arena astatine the extremity of an Ariana Grande performance connected 22 May 2017.

On 1 juncture Abedi had himself been made a “subject of interest” but his record was closed 5 months later, successful July 2014, based connected a “lack of engagement” with extremists.

Witness J was asked astir 2 situation visits by Abedi to convicted violent Abdalraouf Abdallah, the 2nd of which was successful January 2017, soon earlier helium began readying his panic attack.

He said determination was nary quality that the sojourn was related to onslaught planning: “There was nary quality to bespeak that the interaction was related to Salman Abedi posing a menace to nationalist security. The determination to not unfastened (an investigation) was a tenable one.”

The enquiry heard that Abedi’s sanction besides deed a “priority indicator” during a abstracted “data-washing exercise” arsenic falling wrong a tiny fig of erstwhile subjects of involvement who merited further consideration.

A gathering to see the results was scheduled for 31 May 2017, 9 days aft the bombing.

The probe into the onslaught continues. On Friday a antheral was arrested astatine Manchester airport aft helium arrived backmost successful the UK. He was held connected suspicion of engaging successful the mentation of acts of coercion oregon assisting others to prepare, and was bailed pending further inquiries. Police person not named him, but helium was from Fallowfield, the country of southbound Manchester wherever Abedi grew up.