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College dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?

Sylvia Hui
Associated Press

London — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain’s Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

While some claim Salman Abedi had been banned from the mosque he attended for statements glorifying terrorism and his angry rhetoric even prompted an acquaintance to report him to the authorities, others deny that account, saying he never showed any worrying or erratic behavior.

The son of Libyan parents who immigrated to Britain in the early 1990s, Abedi has been identified by British authorities as the bomber who attacked the Ariana Grande concert Monday night. While Home Secretary Amber Rudd said he was on the radar of the intelligence service “up to a point,” it was not clear how much attention officials had paid to his activities, where he was radicalized and whether authorities could have stopped him.

As a portrait of the alleged bomber emerged, it was complicated by contradictory accounts over whether Abedi held views that had sparked concern before Monday’s attack.

Mohammed Shafiq, who heads the Manchester-based Muslim organization Ramadhan Foundation, said some of Abedi’s past statements had prompted a Libyan community activist in Manchester to report him to the national counter-terrorism hotline two years ago.

“He was glorifying terrorism,” Shafiq told the Associated Press. “His extremism, his rhetoric, was an issue of concern, so much that this person reported it.” He said he did not know the outcome of that call.

But Mohammed Fadl, a spokesman for Manchester’s close-knit Libyan community who knew Abedi’s family, said that Abedi appeared “normal” and he was not aware of any alarm bells sounding about him.

“There was definitely nothing too apparent or obvious,” Fadl said. “To my knowledge and many in this community, that’s the general impression. If we saw it we would have said something.”