Manchester bomber aggressive and unwilling to mix, say locals

Business degree dropout Salman Abedi ‘drank and smoked weed’, says schoolfriend

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi. “He kept himself to himself,” a neighbour said.

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi. “He kept himself to himself,” a neighbour said.

 

Elsmore Road, a narrow street of council houses in south Manchester, remained sealed off on Wednesday afternoon as police combed through the home of suicide bomber Salman Abedi. White-clad forensics teams moved in and out of the shabby, redbrick, semidetached house, as uniformed police kept guard.

The house, with its satellite dish on the side wall and a row of wheelie bins outside, was home to Abedi and his brother Ismail, who was arrested outside a nearby supermarket on Tuesday, hours after the bombing at Manchester Arena. Few of Abedi’s neighbours want to talk about him, and those who do have nothing kind to say.

“I never spoke to him and he didn’t talk to anyone,” said an elderly woman who lives a few doors away.

“I really don’t want to talk about him at all.”

He wouldn’t say good morning or hello. He kept himself to himself and he only kept to certain people

This is a working-class neighbourhood south of Moss Side but it is far from deprived, with cars parked outside most houses and little evidence of neglect. The notoriety the suicide bomber has brought to the place and the massive police operation that is still under way are clearly unwelcome to local residents.

Aggressive

Sandra Locke, who lives around the corner from Abedi, described him as standoffish and sometimes aggressive.

He wouldn’t move and he was very abusive

“He wouldn’t say good morning or hello. He kept himself to himself and he only kept to certain people, he didn’t mix. He had his own little clique,” she said.

“My daughter was trying to reverse her car near his house one day and she asked him would he move for a minute while she reversed it. He wouldn’t move and he was very abusive. He moved right up into her face and told her what he was going to do and what he wasn’t going to do.”

Abedi was born in Manchester 22 years ago, the son of religious parents who fled the Gadafy regime in Libya and joined the city’s large Libyan diaspora. A Manchester United fan, Abedi “drank and smoked weed” according to one school friend and started a business degree at Salford University which he later abandoned.

His father, Ramadan Abedi, and mother, Samia, are believed to have returned to Libya, leaving Abedi and his brother Ismail alone in the house on Elsmore Road. Although Abedi became ostentatiously devout recently, his earlier religious experience seems to have been more conventional.

Numerous media reports have suggested that Abedi’s father had a voluntary role at Didsbury mosque, a few miles from their home, and that Abedi worshipped there. According to some reports, Abedi left after an imam preached a sermon criticising the terror group Islamic State, moving to a more radical mosque in south Manchester.

Denial

Didsbury mosque, also known as the Manchester Islamic Centre, summoned the world’s press on Wednesday afternoon for a press statement which addressed none of the claims that had been reported. Instead the mosque’s trustees denied an accusation that almost nobody had made.

We express concern that a small section of the media are manufacturing stories and making unfounded points

“Some media reports have reported that the bomber worked at Manchester Islamic Centre in the past. That is not true. We express concern that a small section of the media are manufacturing stories and making unfounded points without any verification, or context or corroboration,” said Fawzi Haffar, one of the mosque’s trustees, refusing to take questions.

Around the corner from Abedi’s house is a small row of shops, including Arabesque Elegance, which sells abayas, a long, loose gown worn by some Muslim women. Across the road is Whalley Range High School, which hit the news three years ago when two of its pupils, 16-year-old twins Zahra and Salma Halane, ran away to Syria to become “jihadi brides”.

You can have two brothers and one is good and the other one is horrible

Mahmood Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan who has lived in the neighbourhood for decades, is at pains to point out that Abedi and the Halane twins are rare exceptions.

“This thing he did is damaging for us too because people think it’s Muslims and that we’re all the same. But you know, you can have two brothers and one is good and the other one is horrible. All five fingers on your hand are not the same. What he did makes him something that is not human. He is a monster to me,” he said.

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