Manchester bomber asked taxi driver to pray for him on journey to arena

Driver says Salman Abedi asked if he was a Muslim and gave him a Quran on night of terror attack

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Monday 14 December 2020 18:31 GMT
Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena
Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena (GMP/PA)
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The Manchester Arena bomber asked a taxi driver to pray for him during his final journey to his target, a public inquiry has heard.

Salman Abedi hailed a cab on the night of the attack, and first asked to be taken to the flat where he had finished his bomb.

The taxi waited while he picked up the bomb, which was concealed in a rucksack weighing an estimated 36kg, and then continued his journey.

Driver Tariq Nadeem told the inquiry into the attack he picked up Abedi on a fare from the city’s Piccadilly railway station at about 7.30pm.

He recalled how Abedi asked him “are you a Muslim, brother?” as he drove to the first destination at Granby Row.

“The first thing that struck me was he looked very weak,” Mr Nadeem said. “My first impression was that this was someone who might have some mental health issues or some other health issues.”

“He spoke in a very low tone, though he had good English ... the way he spoke was someone who was ill or, to be more precise, weak.”

Mr Nadeem said he noticed the rucksack Abedi brought into the taxi from his flat was very heavy and it appeared he was “carrying it with a degree of difficulty”.

He added: “I said to him ‘it’s too heavy for you, isn’t it?' to which he replied, ‘I’m weak aren’t I, brother’.”

The driver said Abedi kept the rucksack strapped to his back throughout, including when he used a cashpoint en route to Shudehill Metrolink station.

Mr Nadeem continued: “As we were driving along High Street he said ‘can I give you a gift, brother?’

Bomber Salman Abedi pictured moments before Manchester Arena massacre

“He then handed me a copy of the pocket Quran. It was used, it didn’t look brand new … I was very thankful to him and he said please pray for me, brother’.”

Mr Nadeem said the bomber gave his name as Suleman, and said he was not travelling far but “only local”.

Abedi got out of the taxi at Shudehill station and took a tram to Victoria station, which is joined to Manchester Arena.

Shortly before 8.30pm he made the last call from his mobile phone, to his family in Libya.

Abedi spent about two hours around Victoria station and the arena, including an hour in the City Room, where he detonated the bomb at 10.31pm.

The blast killed 22 victims, including children, and injured more than 200 others. The trial of Abedi’s brother, Hashem, heard that almost 700 people have reported psychological trauma as a result of the attack.

Hashem was jailed for life earlier this year for helping mount the attack, and later admitted to inquiry officials that it had been carried out in support of Isis.

The terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bombing, which was the  second and deadliest terror attack to strike in Britain in 2017, following the Westminster Bridge attack in March.

The public inquiry continues.

Additional reporting by PA

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