Terrorist Friend of Ariana Grande Concert Bomber Being Released from Prison

Police deploy at scene of explosion in Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017 at a concert. British police said early May 23 there were "a number of confirmed fatalities" after reports of at least one explosion during a pop concert by US singer Ariana Grande. Ambulances were seen rushing to …
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Abdalraouf Abdallah, who was friends with Salman Abedi and was communicating with him in the months leading up to the Manchester Arena terror attack, is due to be released from prison this week.

The inquiry into the Manchester bombing has heard in recent months the details of the two terrorists’ close relationship. Abedi had been friends with Abdallah since 2014, and they had “conversed about martyrdom” between July and November of that year. When Abdallah was on bail, Abedi took him to mosques.

The Manchester bomber then visited Abdallah in prison in 2015 and then again two years later, maintaining contact with the convicted terrorist in the intervening years. He called Abdallah regularly in the months leading up to the terror attack, notably on the same day that he received a delivery of chemicals for his suicide pack. Despite requests from lawyers, Abdallah, 27, has refused to cooperate with authorities conducting the inquiry.

Sources confirmed to Sky News on Thursday that Abdallah is due for release on licence — similar to parole — this week, after having been jailed in 2016 following a conviction for trying to help his brother and two other Islamists to travel to Syria to join Islamic State.

Some of the relatives of the victims have expressed their shock at Abdallah’s forthcoming release. The lawyer of 12 of them told The Times that it was “beyond belief” he was being released given his refusal to cooperate with the Manchester bombing inquiry, as he could shed light on many aspects of the investigation.

Lawyer Victoria Higgins of Slater & Gordon said: “The contact this man had with Salman Abedi in the weeks and months before the Arena bomb is something that the inquiry will be exploring in great detail.”

“This is truly devastating news at what has already been a hugely distressing experience for the families sitting through this inquiry,” Ms Higgins added.

Abdallah has fully completed the custodial portion of his short sentence. He may be recalled to prison if he breaches the terms of his licence, although such conditions have failed to stop early-release terrorists before.

Abdallah was born in Libya and grew up in the same part of Manchester as the Abedi brothers. In 2010, he travelled to Tripoli to fight and was shot and seriously injured in 2011. The NHS treated him for his injuries, giving what was described as life-saving treatment, after his parents had flown him back to Britain. The jihadist was paralysed from the waist down and is wheelchair-bound.

The terrorist will be subject to a tag on his release and be restricted on his access to electronic devices such as computers. He will be banned from interacting with certain people and will be prohibited from entering Manchester city centre. Additionally, he will be ordered to attend a deradicalisation programme.

The effectiveness of deradicalisation programmes has come under scrutiny in the past 12 months, following the London Bridge terror attack committed in November 2019 by Usman Khan, who was attending a rehabilitation event when he launched his stabbing spree, killing two of the course’s facilitators. Khan was considered a “success story” of an Islamist who turned his life around. King’s College London published a paper in July revealing that terrorists are pretending to be reformed in order to secure early release.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously admitted that “really very few” Islamists are successfully reformed.

Terrorism expert Dr Rakib Ehsan of the Henry Jackson Society warned that Abdallah still represents a risk to national security and should be detained in prison for the full nine-and-a-half years of his sentence.

Dr Ehsan told The Telegraph: “Irrespective of his supposedly strict licensing conditions, releasing Abdallah — a man who has close links to the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi — poses a clear threat to British public safety.

“Given he was released automatically, without a parole hearing, we simply have no idea if he has been ‘deradicalised’ or remains a hardened fundamentalist. All this tells a story of a fundamentally flawed system for dealing with Islamist terrorists.”

The inquiry into the May 2017 terror attack revealed that Britain’s domestic security agency MI5 was aware that Abedi was in contact with Abdallah before the attack, but did not reopen their investigation into Abedi.

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