Manchester bomber’s terrorist friend to be released from jail

A jailed terrorist who is refusing to co-operate with authorities after twice being visited in prison by Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi is to be released on parole.

Islamic extremist Abdalraouf Abdallah, 27, befriended Abedi, who visited him in jail in the months before he murdered 22 people and injured hundreds more in the terror attack.

He is a man with “important evidence” about the background to the attack, the public inquiry currently sitting in Manchester has heard.

But Abdallah, a paraplegic after being injured in fighting in Libya, is refusing to co-operate with lawyers for the inquiry.

He is claiming legal privilege by refusing to answer questions that may incriminate himself, the hearing was told.

Sources confirmed to the PA news agency that Abdallah is to be released this week.

Manchester Arena Inquiry
Manchester Arena Inquiry

In the months leading up to the Manchester Arena attack on May 2 2017, both Salman and his brother Hashem became visibly more radicalised, gave up on education courses, wore traditional Islamic clothing and grew more religious in their attitudes, and Salman was seen associating with known extremist Abdallah.

How the brothers became radicalised is one of the key questions the inquiry is to explore.

Salman Abedi visited Abdallah in Belmarsh Prison on February 26 2015 while he was on remand for terror offences.

On May 11 2016, Abdallah was sentenced for terror offences to an extended determinate sentence of nine-and-a-half years, made up of a custodial element of five-and-a-half years and an extended licence period of four years. He was designated as “dangerous” by the judge.

Abedi visited Abdallah again at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool on January 18 2017 after Abdallah was convicted and serving his sentence, and the pair were in regular telephone contact.

The same month Abedi and his younger brother Hashem began preparing their bomb plot.

In February 2017, three months before the Arena bombing, prison authorities found that Abdallah had an illicit phone and had tried to make calls to Abedi.

The pair discussed martyrdom, the public inquiry has heard, and a third visit was booked for March 6 2017, but did not take place.

Manchester Arena Inquiry
Manchester Arena Inquiry

Two months later, Abedi detonated his shrapnel-packed rucksack bomb, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others as they left an Ariana Grande concert.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the public inquiry, told the hearing earlier this year: “Salman Abedi’s relationship with Abdalraouf Abdallah was one of some significance in the period prior to the bombing and we are determined to get to the bottom of it.

“We have no doubt he is a witness with important evidence to give.

“We are continuing to pursue this line of inquiry. We hope on reflection he will co-operate, so will press for him to give evidence before the inquiry.”

The inquiry was told that Abdallah had numerous telephone contacts with Abedi from 2014 as well as prison visits.

Abdallah, from Manchester, was paralysed from the waist down after being was shot while fighting in the Libyan uprising in 2011 and returned to the UK for treatment.

He was jailed after being convicted of preparing and funding acts of terrorism by helping four others travel to Syria for terrorism, including his older brother, Mohammed Abdallah, 29, an unemployed former drug dealer with a low IQ.

Abdallah’s older brother was convicted and jailed for 10 years in 2017 for joining so-called Islamic State (IS) and receiving £2,000 in terrorist funding from his sibling.

Manchester Arena Inquiry
Manchester Arena Inquiry

Abdallah also assisted Stephen Mustafa Gray, of Whitnall Street, Moss Side, a former RAF serviceman and Iraq war veteran, who converted to Islam and who also tried to get to Syria.

Raymond Matimba, 28, of Bold Street, Moss Side, travelled with Gray to Syria but, unlike him, was able to cross the border.

He reportedly became an IS sniper and appeared in footage with the so-called Beatles terror cell alongside “Jihadi John”.

Despite reports that he was killed in combat, his death has never been confirmed.

Hashem Abedi was jailed for life with a minimum 55 years before parole for his part in the bomb plot.

Salman’s family in Libya is also refusing to co-operate.

His older brother, Ismail Abedi, who lives in Manchester, is also refusing to answer questions, as is his right.