An extradition request has been made to the Libyan authorities for the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber to return to the UK to face trial for mass murder.
Greater Manchester police (GMP) said that counter-terrorism officers had been granted a warrant for Hashem’s arrest and that the Libyan authorities had been asked on Wednesday to consider his extradition to the UK.
They believe they have enough evidence to charge him with the murder of 22 people, the attempted murder of others who were injured and conspiracy to cause an explosion.
Detectives know that the two brothers travelled together to Libya from the UK in April this year, with Hashem remaining in Libya, the country of their parents’ birth. At the end of April, 22-year-old Salman returned to Manchester to carry out the atrocity at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, buying the components in local stores and assembling his bomb in a rented city centre flat.
Both brothers were born in Manchester and went to school in the city.
Hashem is currently been held by a militia group in Libya, which is racked with civil war. A photograph of him was released inside the Tripoli-based Special Deterrent anti-terrorism force unit after his detention on 24 May.
Briefing journalists in Manchester on Wednesday, GMP assistant chief constable Russ Jackson declined to name the militia group. He said his detectives had not had any contact with them but that he knew where Hashem was being detained.
The extradition request had been made to the “internationally recognised” government in Tripoli, he added.
He admitted he did not know of any recent successful extraditions to the UK from Libya but said he was grateful to the Libyans for considering the request to allow Hashem to return to his native Britain to stand trial.
No request has been made to extradite the Abedi brothers’ father, who was reportedly arrested shortly after Hashem. Ramadan Abedi was being interviewed by a TV crew in Tripoli when he was taken by masked gunmen, eyewitnesses said in May.
If the Libyans agree to send Hashem home to the UK, he will be taken into custody as soon as he lands on British soil and will likely be immediately charged. He will then be sent to a magistrates court and then a crown court to stand trial.
Jackson said that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, had agreed to the extradition request being made. A judge at Westminster magistrates court granted the warrant around two weeks ago and on Wednesday it was passed to the Libyan government via “diplomatic channels”, he said.
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “I have consistently said it is imperative that any trial related to the Manchester Arena attack takes place in the UK. That is why I am encouraged by this news today.
“I want to thank Greater Manchester police and the government for their hard work in getting us to this point on behalf of the people of Greater Manchester and all those affected by this appalling act of evil.
“While this is an important step, there may well be further challenges ahead. I hope all of the authorities involved will work together and seek to remove any barriers.”
An extradition treaty was signed between the UK and the Great Socialist People’s Republic Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on extradition on 17 November 2008.
Jackson refused to speculate on the likelihood of the current Libyan administration honouring the treaty amid the civil unrest. “We must respect the Libyan judicial due process,” he said.
Normally the UK government neither confirms nor denies that it has made an extradition request in order to increase the chances of catching the wanted person abroad. Protocol has been diverted from in this case because detectives are certain that Hashem is in Libyan custody being held by a known group, said Jackson.
GMP also provided an update regarding the victims of the bombing.
They now believe that 512 people were “directly affected” by the bomb, suffering physical or psychological injuries. Many people are “profoundly” traumatised by what they saw and heard, said Jackson. Sixty-four people were seriously injured, suffering life-changing injuries, including the loss of limbs, paralysis, internal injuries and severe facial disfigurement. Many have had to undergo multiple major plastic surgery operations. A further 28 were classed as having “serious” injuries.
Some 353 people were in the foyer of the concert venue when Salman Abedi detonated his rucksack bomb. Of those, 175 were aged between 10 and 18.
A total of 112 people were hospitalised as a result of their injuries, with a further 27 whose injuries did not require admission to hospital. Seventy-nine of those physically injured were children.
No one has yet been charged in connection with the atrocity, though 23 people have been arrested as part of the inquiry, including the Abedi’s older brother and two cousins, as well as a string of other young British men of Libyan origin.
Thirty addresses have been searched and 11,000 exhibits seized. A team of more than 100 detectives are working full time on the investigation, examining 16 terabytes of data and 16,000 hours of CCTV. The police have amassed over eight million lines of telephone communications data, GMP said.
Police are still searching for a large blue suitcase the bomber was seen wheeling around Manchester in the days before the attack.
Detectives were likely to be working on the case for years to come, said Jackson, who reiterated that police had a “very clear” understanding of Abedi’s movements in the run-up to the bomb, saying: “We have not uncovered evidence of a wide network.”
UK requests extradition of Hashem Abedi over Manchester Arena attack – The Guardian