In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, a cousin of Salman Abedi, the bomber responsible for the 2017 Manchester terror attack, discusses Abedi’s radicalisation. Speaking to the newspaper, Isaac Forjani says that, unlike his own family, Abedi’s family, who had fought against Gadaffi during the uprising, were very “strict” Salafi Muslims who also “talked a lot about politics. They watched the news and talked about wars and how the US shouldn’t be getting involved and so on”.
While Abedi had once drunk alcohol and smoked weed, Forjani says that overtime, he saw him change; “He was just – weird. He disapproved of me having a white British girlfriend”. He also reportedly once punched a girl at his college after arguing with her over her skirt being too short, and “He was also said to have given a preacher a “look of hate” after a sermon criticising Isis”.
The article notes that former schoolmates and teachers say he was a victim of bullying, had issues with his temper, and that “he was not a bright student”. It reports that Abedi’s radicalisation had puzzled MI5, the Greater Manchester Police, and those closest to him.
However, Forjani “claims his cousin was radicalised through close contact in Manchester and Tripoli with the family of an al-Qaeda terrorist called Anas al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a conspirator in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa”. He says, “I heard a few weeks ago from relatives in Libya that they might have shown him videos and things. The family were very technically able people. They had a laptop shop in Tripoli … Salman had to have learned to make the bomb over there. You can’t learn that in the UK. It had to be in Libya”.
Forjani says that he thinks Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem, who is currently being held by a militia force in Libya after being prevented from escaping by his family, was also “brainwashed” by the same family. He speculates, “Hashem has completely lost it. He was ready to blow himself up. I think that was the plan – Salman would carry out an attack here, while Hashem did the same over there. He’s in prison now being tortured. He has been beaten up quite badly by the people holding him”.
Forjani’s and Abedi’s families lived in Fallowfield, south of Manchester city centre, in an area known as “Little Tripoli” as its residents had settled here after fleeing the regime of Colonel Gadaffi. Abedi used Forjani’s bank card, as well as the bank cards of other members of his family, to buy the materials used to make the bomb used in the attack. As a result, Forjani says he lost “everything” through his connection to Abedi, including access to his young son.
He says he has fallen out with Abedi’s older brother, Ismail, who thinks he should sympathise with Abedi because he was “brainwashed by extremists”. But Forjani says, “Can you imagine somebody convincing you that if you blow yourself up with all those people, you’re going to heaven? He’s evil. Simple as that”.
Collins, D. (2018) ‘Manchester bomb attack: ‘I felt sick. My cousin had come back and killed all those children’. [online] 22 April. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/manchester-bomb-attack-i-felt-sick-my-cousin-had-come-back-and-killed-all-those-children-ml566ncvk. [Accessed 18 May 2018].