The bomber who carried out the attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England had input and encouragement from a U.S.-based ISIS recruiter, the Clarion Project reported.
The attack, which targeted concert-goers as they left the arena, killed 22 people in August 2016.
Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim, a 40-year-old American national of Jordanian descent from Dallas, was part of an online chat with the bomber, Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British national of Libyan descent, who was seeking authorization to carry out the bombing.
During the chat, which was held on the encrypted messaging app Zello, Abedi addressed a question to a sheikh in the group (later identified as Mouner el-Aoual, 28, an ISIS jihadi in Turin, Italy).
“Sheikh, I live in Manchester, in Great Britain. I live among non-Muslims. I have found work with them. Am I allowed to kill them? Is it permitted to kill them with a bomb?” Abedi asked.
Rahim responded, “To the boy from Manchester I say, OK, kill them! Show no mercy to civilians.”
El-Aoual agreed, saying, Abedi should “fight the pagans all together.”
Rahim was arrested in the U.S. last March for making false statements to federal officers about his alleged support of ISIS.
El-Aoual was later arrested by Italian police on suspicion of extremist activities.
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Abedi was living with his family in south Manchester before the attack but rented an apartment in the city center, where authorities believe he prepared the explosive device. He had traveled back and forth from Libya to visit his father Ramadan. British security services said Abedi was an associate of Raphael Hostey, also known as Abu al-Qaqaa al-Britani, who recruited British nationals for ISIS and sponsored their entry into Syria. Hostey was killed in Syria by a U.S.-led coalition drone strike in 2015.
Abedi met with an ISIS unit in Libya known as Katibat al-Battar al-Libi before his attack, intelligence officials have said. He visited Tripoli and the western coastal city of Sabratha near the Tunisian border. The New York Times reported in June that the unit had helped to coordinate the mass casualty attacks in Paris and Brussels in November 2015 and March 2016, respectively.
On his return to Britain, Abedi is believed to have passed through Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and the German city of Düsseldorf. His links to the Libyan ISIS cell raised the possibility that the attack was directed from the war-torn country, where ISIS has retained a presence amid the country’s power vacuum since the end of 2014.
But the latest exchange shows that the incident may have had input from Syria, Italy and the U.S. If confirmed, it would be a concerning development for the security services battling to intercept discussions about extremist plots on encrypted messaging platforms such as Telegram, Zello and Wickr.
Each of the families of the 22 people killed during the May bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester will receive $324,000 from the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, the fund announced Tuesday.
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