British intelligence agency MI5 was reportedly warned by its US counterpart that Salman Abedi was planning an attack on UK soil, three months before he blew himself up outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
FBI agents are said to have informed British officials that the 22-year-old was part of a North African Islamic State cell based in the north west of England that was plotting an attack in the UK.
Abedi was reportedly placed on a US terrorist watch list in 2016 after he came to the attention of intelligence agencies during an investigation into terrorist groups operating in Libya.
“In early 2017 the FBI told MI5 that Abedi belonged to a North African terror gang based in Manchester, which was looking for a political target in this country," a security source told The Mail on Sunday.
“The information came from the interception of his communications by US federal agents, who had been investigating Abedi since the middle of 2016, and from information unearthed in Libya, where his family was linked to terrorist groups.
“Following this US tip-off, Abedi and other members of the gang were scrutinised by MI5. It was thought at the time that Abedi was planning to assassinate a political figure. But nothing came of this investigation and, tragically, he slipped down the pecking order of targets.”
MI5 has faced questions over the fact that Abedi was on its radar but slipped through the net in order to carry out the attack that killed 22 people and seriously injured 64.
In response, defence officials said that at any one time they are juggling 500 terror investigations involving 3,000 subjects.
Police have so far arrested 14 people on suspicion of terror offences in conjunction with the Manchester attack, two of whom have since been released.
Detectives believe they have detained “a large part of the network” involved in planning the attack.
The latest raid took place in Moss Side, a suburb of Manchester – close to the barber shop run by Abedi’s cousin that officers had previously searched.
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