The father of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi has said his son is innocent, and has confirmed UK police have arrested another son.
Abedi’s father, Ramadan, told the Associated Press from Tripoli: “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us.”
The attacker’s father said that he spoke to his son last week to discuss meeting in Tripoli during Ramadan and said he was “really shocked” when he heard what had happened on Monday night.
It emerged on Wednesday that the 22-year-old was known “up to a point” to the intelligence services and had recently returned from Libya.
Abedi, who was born in Manchester, has been described by an imam at his local mosque as the “face of hate”.
“I was really shocked when I saw the news, I still don’t believe it,” Ramadan Abedi told Bloomberg.
“My son was as religious as any child who opens his eyes in a religious family,” he said.
“As we were discussing news of similar attacks earlier, he was always against those attacks, saying there’s no religious justification for them.
“I don’t understand how he’d have become involved in an attack that led to the killing of children.”
At least 22 people were killed after a bomb exploded at Manchester Arena on Monday night as fans, many of whom were children, left an Ariana Grande concert.
Ismail Abedi, 23, the bomber’s older brother was arrested near a Morrisons in Chorlton on Tuesday.
Hashem Abedi, the attacker’s younger brother, has also been arrested. He was apprehended in Tripoli on Wednesday on suspicion of having links with so-called Islamic State.
The terror threat level in Britain was raised from severe to critical on Tuesday evening and armed police have began patrolling UK streets and protecting tourist attractions.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Sky News that the intelligence services had been aware of Abedi, who is reported to have recently returned to the UK from Libya.
Abedi’s father said he made frequent trips to visit his family in Libya and he continued to protest his son’s innocence.
“Every father knows his son and his thoughts, my son does not have extremist thoughts,” he added.
Abedi’s Libyan parents had fled to the UK after becoming opponents of Gaddafi.
The family initially lived in London before moving to Manchester where they resided in the Whalley Range area, which became famous after schoolgirls Zahra and Salma Halane left home and fled to Syria in 2015.
A group of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived within close proximity to Abedi, the Telegraph reported.
Abedi’s father reportedly used to call the prayer at the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, and his older brother, Ismail, had been a tutor at the mosque’s Koran school.
A trustee at the mosque told the Press Association it was likely Abedi had also attended there.
Fawaz Haffar described the mosque as moderate, modern and liberal, but Mohammed Saeed El-Saeiti, the local imam, told the The Telegraph he remembers Abedi as a dangerous extremist.
“Salman showed me the face of hate after my speech on Isis,” the imam said.
“He used to show me the face of hate and I could tell this person does not like me. It’s not a surprise to me.”
Abedi, who had a sister and two brothers, went to school in Manchester before studying business at Salford University - a degree he did not complete.
Abedi, who then became a baker, has since been remembered by his friends as a good footballer and supporter of Manchester United and a user of cannabis.
Armed officers raided an address linked to Abedi on Tuesday and carried out a controlled explosion at the property on Elsmore Road, Fallowfield where, according to the Manchester Evening News, a ‘Know Your Chemicals’ booklet was found. The family were believed to have lived at more than one address in the city.
Police on Wednesday arrested three men in south Manchester and said it was “likely” Abedi was not acting alone.
A family friend, who asked not to be named, described Abedi as “normal” and said they were known to the Libyan community in the city.
He told the Press Association: “He was always friendly, nothing to suggest (he was violent). He was normal, to be honest.”
A family friend, who described the Abedis as “very religious”, said most of the family had returned to Libya, leaving only Salman and Ismail behind.
“They have not been there for quite a while. Different people come and go,” Alan Kinsey told the newspaper.
Kinsey’s wife, Frances, said she believed that the parents had left before Christmas and just one or two young men had been living in the property.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the priority for detectives was to establish whether Abedi had acted alone or had worked as part of a wider network.