Home » Inside the depraved life and mind of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi
Inside the depraved life and mind of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi
May 22, 2021
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Very little is known about Salman Abedi, the bomber and chief plotter responsible for the deaths of 23 mostly young people – including his own – at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017.
What we do know three years on is that he was an abusive older brother, frequently absent from school and university and very gullible.
In the days after the bombing, a former classmate told BBC News: "You could tell him anything and he would pretty much fall for it."
The extreme views held by terrorists are well-known, but the cruelty needed to commit an act so heinous as Abedi's less so.
That was the view of numerous people who knew him.
Another classmate said he didn't "come across as an intelligent person" and even that they weren't shocked to find out he was the perpetrator of the Manchester Arena bombing.
The anonymous former pupil added: "He fits the profile for a suicide bomber."
Although still an adolescent himself when he carried out the bombing, what's clear is that Abedi's journey toward infamy and his own death was at least 5 years in the making.
He reportedly fought for Islamist militias alongside his father Ramadan against Gaddafi's regime in Libya during the Arab Spring in 2011, sometimes skiving off school to do so.
Abedi's dad was a friend and associate of notorious hate preacher Abu Qatada, who was famously deported from the UK in 2013 before being cleared of terrorism charges in Jordan.
From a young age, teenager Salman had all the wrong influences. He didn't listen to coaches at the Manchester United Foundation where he played, and teachers at Burnage Academy for Boys, The Manchester College and Salford University.
But radical clerics and his own extremist father affected Salman's worldview immensely.
That wasn't the case for Salman's younger brother Hashem, who was more of a football fan, drinker, weed smoker and jack-the-lad than Salman.
Though Hashem was also responsible for the bombing – and he is now serving a minimum 55-year prison sentence for the murders – his radicalism emerged later.
Hashem spent his teenage years partying and travelling with friends, who were shocked when he was implicated more recently in the Manchester Arena attack.
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Revealingly, a friend of Hashem's told the bombing inquiry Hashem had always seemed a normal, even nice, person.
They said: "We were 20 years old, 19 years old, and the last thing I thought this guy was going to was that, you know.
"Obviously I'm wrong."
The friend also told the inquiry it was Salman who influenced his brother's extreme views – and eventual mental breakdown.
After a pilgrimage to Mecca with his brother in October 2015, Hashem had changed. Suddenly the more liberal friend was seen as a "bad influence", and Hashem was becoming more like his brother.
They added: "He would text me to remind me to pray. He said that my life wasn't very well and I should change. That's what he was trying to get me to do."
Hashem continued to hang out with those friends, even visiting Amsterdam to smoke weed with pals. But his demeanor was never the same.
The friend suggested it was because Hashem knew what Salman was planning that he became so guilty and despondent.
It's likely Salman decided he would carry out the bombing a long time before it took place. During Hashem's trial, the court heard the brothers spent months buying, stockpiling and moving the materials required for the deadly attack.
That would explain Hashem's strange behaviour in the months before the attack. He knew it was going to happen.
But it was Salman who ultimately carried it out and was pictured in the city centre minutes before the attack. It was Salman who died for his depraved cause and in the act of murdering 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl, while injuring hundreds more.
Younger brother Hashem must now pay a different price, serving 55 years before he can even be considered for parole.
That punitive judgment is a record-breaking determinate sentence, and Hashem was too cowardly to even hear it in person. Just like the bombing itself, he was involved but not present.
In a way Salman, the mastermind, got away with it.