- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2018

British officials investigating the suicide bombing that killed 22 people attending an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena last year have found multiple failures on the part of U.K. intelligence that could have potentially prevented the deadly terrorist attack from happening.

The U.K. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee concluded in a report published Thursday that the MI5 security agency was aware of the suspected suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, for several years leading up to the May 2017 attack.

Abedi, 22, initially came to MI5’s attention in late 2010 over his ties to another person of interest, and he remained on the agency’s radar as recently as two months before the attack, the committee’s investigation uncovered.

“What we can say is that there were a number of failures in the handling of Salman Abedi’s case and while it is impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack, we have concluded that, as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed,” said Dominic Grieve, the committee’s chairman.

“MI5 have since admitted that given the information they had on Abedi, they should have done so, and they have now revisited their policies in this respect,” said Mr. Grieve, a Conservative representing Beaconsfield in the U.K. House of Commons.

The British-born son of Libyan parents, officials alleged that Abedi detonated a homemade bomb in the foyer of Manchester Arena during the pop concert on May 22, 2017, killing nearly two-dozen people including himself and injuring over 100 others. His younger brother, Hashem, was arrested shortly afterwards in connection with the attack and is being held in Libya pending extradition.

Intelligence officials formally investigated Abedi briefly in 2014, and he was considered a closed “subject of interest” for the three years preceding the attack, the committee’s report revealed.

He remained on MI5’s radar in the interim, drawing attention for his frequent travel to Libya, his ties to a known extremist under investigation and for visiting an incarcerated “extremist contact” in prison, according to the report.

“An internal MI5 process in March 2017 had raised SALMAN’s name for potential further investigations; however, final decisions on this had not taken place by the time SALMAN launched his attack,” the committee’s report revealed.

Both brothers traveled to Libya the following month, while only one returned and ultimately conducted the attack, according to authorities.

“Following the attacks, the government, police and MI5 undertook a series of rigorous reviews to ensure we are all doing everything we can to tackle the evolving threat of terrorism,” said British Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Hashem Abedi could be extradited back to the U.K. to face charges within a matter of weeks, Libyan official Fayez al-Sarraj said earlier this month.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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