Royal Navy Rescued Manchester Suicide Bomber From War-Torn Libya in 2014

Flowers and balloons are placed in central Manchester on the one year anniversary of the deadly attack at Manchester Arena / Getty Images

The Manchester Arena suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert last year was rescued by the British Royal Navy during the Second Libyan Civil War, three years prior to his deadly attack.

The HMS Enterprise picked up then-19-year-old Salman Abedi and his younger brother, Hashem Abedi, from the Libyan coast in August 2014 when intense fighting escalated in Tripoli, according to the Daily Mail. They were taken to Malta with about 100 other British citizens before catching a flight home to Manchester. 

The elder Abedi killed 22 people and injured 139 others at U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena in May 2017 when he detonated a suicide vest in the foyer area of the arena. Seven children died in the attack, with the youngest victim being just eight years old.

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"For this man to have committed such an atrocity on UK soil after we rescued him from Libya was an act of utter betrayal," a Whitehall source told the Mail.

MI5 agents were tracking Abedi’s movements in Libya, but they removed him from their watch list one month before his rescue because of "mistaken identity." The Abedi brothers were said to have been on holiday when fighting broke out. They were among 110 British evacuees on a list given to the Royal Navy after the British Foreign Office advised British citizens in Libya to "leave immediately by commercial means" as the nation dissolved into chaos.

British security officials said they did not believe Abedi had become radicalized at the time of his rescue from Tripoli. Violence had intensified around the capital as militia groups battled for control.

"He was a British citizen so it was our job to safeguard him," one source told the Mail. "Salman was one of many people in that mix and we absolutely had to evacuate him."

Hashem Abedi is currently being held in a Tripoli prison by a militia group. He was arrested in Libya following his brother’s attack in Manchester. The British government has attempted to extradite him back to the U.K. to stand trial, but that request has been repeatedly denied.