The Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 left 22 people dead and many more injured. This week, a public inquiry into the atrocity will report on how bomber Salman Abedi was radicalised and whether security services missed chances to stop him.
The BBC has uncovered evidence that a Muslim preacher close to Abedi, Mansour Al-Anezi, had been investigated by MI5 as a suspected radicaliser more than a decade earlier. Al-Anezi had been in contact with Abedi and his brother Hashem, and was present when Nicky Reilly, a Muslim convert, attempted a suicide bombing in Exeter in 2008.
Al-Anezi was monitored at a Plymouth mosque where he preached, and MI5 collected intelligence on his activities. He was barred from preaching after the Exeter attack, and was subject to further investigation.
The BBC has also discovered that Al-Anezi used different aliases, and that his real name might have been something else entirely. He arrived in the UK on a fake passport under the name Nasar Al Ajmi, but he claimed the document was destroyed and he could not recall the airport he arrived at.
The inquiry has also examined other potential influences on Salman Abedi, including during his time at Didsbury Mosque in Manchester. The BBC has discovered two other young men who attended the mosque died in conflict abroad and were lionised as martyrs online before the Arena bombing.
The families of those killed in the bombing have expressed disappointment at the new evidence uncovered by the BBC, saying “if there is enough information in the public domain for the press to make these links then we would have expected the government to do the same and investigate fully”.
The inquiry’s public hearings did not consider another young man who died abroad, nor his father who knew Salman Abedi. His father, Taher Nasuf, regularly attended Didsbury mosque and was part of a legal political group which met there. The BBC has been told Mr Nasuf’s son Reda also died in conflict abroad.
The inquiry is expected to report on whether security services missed chances to stop Abedi and whether more could have been done to prevent his radicalisation. It is hoped that the findings will help to ensure that similar tragedies are avoided in the future.