LONDON: The Manchester Arena bomber should have been questioned by police when he returned to the UK from Libya four days before the attack, a senior British intelligence officer has said.
Salman Abedi had been assessed by MI5 in the months leading up to the attack and was found to have been in touch with three other “subjects of interest,” the officer, referred to as Witness J, told the inquiry into the bombing.
But the officer said there was no intelligence suggesting a threat to national security, the BBC reported.
However, he said that it was a mistake not to ask police to question Abedi when he returned to the UK from Libya on May 18, 2017.
Abedi detonated a suicide bomb in the foyer of the arena as people left a concert by US singer Ariana Grande on May 22.
The blast killed 22 people and injured hundreds, many of them children who had gone to watch the performer.
The inquiry heard that between 2013 and 2017 Abedi had been in direct contact with one person suspected of planning to travel to Syria, another with links to Al-Qaeda and a third linked to extremists in Libya.
Between 2016 and 2017 he was also identified as a second-level contact with three more “subjects of interest” linked to Daesh.
Witness J said that it did not “necessarily follow” that having contact with “subjects of interest” was a cumulative risk.
But stopping him “would have been the better course of action,” he said, referring to the decision not to question Abedi on his return.
Abedi was a “subject of interest” for five months before his file was closed in July 2014.
The UK-born son of Libyan parents is believed to have joined an extremist militia when he traveled to Libya during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.