The man who murdered 22 people and injured 59 others has been named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.
Police confirmed the 22-year-old’s identity after officials in the United States passed it to news reporters, apparently against the wishes of the British police and security services.
Abedi was known to the security services but was not part of any active investigation or regarded as a high risk. He was viewed as a peripheral figure in much the same way as the Westminister attacker, Khalid Masood.
The police and security services are trying to establish whether he worked alone or was part of a wider network that helped him with the bomb. Although Islamic State has claimed responsibility, the police have found no evidence to support this.
Even before Abedi was named, several members of south Manchester’s Libyan community wondered whether the suicide bomber was one of their own: perhaps one of the young men who had fought in Libya during the 2011 revolution, some of whom came home traumatised and angry.
But none appear to have suspected that British-born Abedi – a slightly withdrawn, devout young man, always respectful to his elders – would become a mass murderer.
“Salman? I’m astonished by this,” one member of Manchester’s Libyan community told the Guardian. “He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful towards me. His brother Ismail is outgoing, but Salman was very quiet. He is such an unlikely person to have done this.”
Salman and his brother Ismail worshipped at Didsbury mosque, where their father, who is known as Abu Ismail within the community, is a well-known figure. “He used to do the five and call the adhan. He has an absolutely beautiful voice. And his boys learned the Qur’an by heart.
“Abu Ismail will be terribly distraught. He was always very confrontational with jihadi ideology, and this Isis thing isn’t even jihad, it’s criminality. The family will be devastated.”
Abu Ismail Abedi, who worked as an odd-job man in Manchester, is thought to be in Tripoli. His wife, Samia, is thought to be in Manchester. The couple are believed to have another son, Hashem, and a daughter, Jomana.
“Abu Ismail comes and goes between here and there,” the family friend said. “I can’t believe [Salman Abedi] would have been radicalised in Tripoli. All those types have been driven out of the city. It must have happened here.
“But what was he doing, murdering all those people. There must have been somebody influencing him. It’s terrible. He was off his head.”
But others had a different recollection. Mohammed Saeed, a senior figure of Didsbury Mosque and Islamic Centre, said Salman Abedi had looked at him “with hate” after he gave a sermon criticising Isis and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya.
Saeed said he gave a strong sermon against terrorism and about the sanctity of life in 2015. He said 2,000 members of the mosque were with him; a small number were not; and a few signed a petition criticising him.
“Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon,” he said. “He was showing me hatred.”
Saeed said a friend was so worried that he got his adult children to sit beside Salman Abedi in case he was attacked.
Saeed, who was born in Libya and came to the UK in 1980, said he was worried he would be labelled a “snitch”. But he said: “I have to speak out to protect our community, to protect innocent people.”
Didsbury mosque, he said, was a moderate place that welcomed Muslims from Arabia, Africa, Asia and Europe. It also had new converts and held an open day once a week for non-Muslims to learn more about the mosque.
However, there were other problems in the Manchester Libyan community.
Abdalraouf Abdallah, 24, was jailed for nine and a half years last year after being convicted of funding terrorism and preparing acts of terrorism. Abdallah had helped a number of men travel to Syria so they could fight in the civil war. He was unable to travel himself because he is paralysed from the waist down after being shot during the Libyan revolution.
One of the people he helped to send to Syria was Stephen Gray, who had converted to Islam after leaving the air force in 2004. He was jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to terrorist offences.
The family friend said Abedi and Abdallah knew each other: “All the Libyan lads in Manchester know each other”. That relationship will come under renewed scrutiny by the police and MI5.
Isis’s claim of responsibility for Abedi’s crime was posted in Arabic and English on channels that the group uses on the encrypted Telegram instant messaging service.
The English version said the bombing in the “shameless” concert arena was “in revenge for Allah’s religion, in an endeavour to terrorize the [infidels], and in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”.
Earlier, armed police sealed off Elsmore Road, a street in the Fallowfield area of south Manchester, and then carried out a controlled explosion at the terraced house where Abedi lived.
Officers also searched the home of his brother Ismail in the Chorlton area of south Manchester. They arrested a 23-year-old man near an address where the family had previously lived, prompting speculation that Ismail Abedi had been detained.
A police helicopter hovered over Elsmore Road, and a fire engine was parked nearby as police searched the property where they had carried out the controlled explosion, apparently to blow off the front door.
Tina Ward, 32, who lives on the same road as the raided house, said she came out of her home at around midday to see about 30 armed police entering the front garden of that house. She said it was home to a large Asian family with sons.
“They seem to be quiet,” she said. “I’ve been in my house 10 years and they’ve been there longer than me.”
Farzana Kosur said she and her children had lived on Thelwall Ave, around the corner from the house that was raided on Elesmore Rd, for four years. She knew the family in the house, she said, though not very well.
The family had sons in their 20s, and a younger son and daughter, and the older sons would wear religious dress and attend a mosque. The mother was a “very nice woman” and taught Kosur’s friend’s daughter to read the Qur’an.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “I hate the bombing and everybody is scared. It’s a nice area. We’ve had no problems.”
On Elsmore Road there was also some indication that Abedi was not always quiet and respectful. One neighbour said that when he spoke to him about parking his car so that others could not exit their drives, “all I got was this”, and he held up his middle finger.
There were also reports that in recent weeks he had taken to chanting Islamic verses loudly in the street.
Meanwhile, one former school friend was reported to have said that the last time he saw Abedi he had been a Manchester United fan who rarely discussed his faith. “He always had a bit of an attitude problem. I can’t say I really liked the man.”