As the police conducted a series of house raids on Thursday in the Manchester area, the chief investigator said they were making headway in the investigation into the plot: Eight suspects were in custody, and officers had amassed important evidence.
“I want to reassure people that the arrests that we have made are significant, and initial searches of premises have revealed items that we believe are very important to the investigation,” Manchester’s top police official, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, said at a news conference. “These searches will take several days to complete, as you would expect. Therefore, there will be some disruption. However, it is very important that we continue with these searches.”
Officials in Turkey and Germany said on Thursday that Mr. Abedi had passed through airports in Istanbul and the German city of Düsseldorf this month on his way back to Britain from Libya.
It did not appear that he had stayed very long or even left the airports in Turkey and Germany, but the German authorities were looking into a 2015 visit by Mr. Abedi to Frankfurt.
France’s interior minister said on Wednesday that Mr. Abedi had “most likely” traveled to Syria, a stronghold of the Islamic State. But the Turkish authorities said they had no evidence that Mr. Abedi had passed through their country to travel to Syria.
Since the attack, Mr. Abedi’s older brother, Ismail, has been arrested in Britain, while his younger brother, Hashem, and father have been detained in Libya.
A friend of the Abedi family, Salem Ammar, said in an interview that Mr. Abedi’s father, Ramadan, had been so worried about his son’s frame of mind in the months before the Manchester bombing that he pressured him to come to Libya, and briefly confiscated his passport.
“We were all surprised that he managed to take his passport,” Mr. Ammar said by telephone from Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Mr. Ammar said that Salman Abedi was distraught after a friend, Abdul Wahab Hafidah, was killed in May 2016 in what the authorities took to be an act of gang violence. Mr. Hafidah was close with Salman Abedi’s brother Hashem.
“I was told his radicalization started in England shortly after the murder of Hafidah,” Mr. Ammar said. “Some of the kids there were very upset about it, and that is how it started.”
Mr. Ammar said he was shocked because Mr. Abedi’s father, an employee of the interior minister in Tripoli, “is moderate and everyone knows that.” He added, “I still can’t believe that his son grew up to be this person.”
Ramadan Abedi, the father, fled Libya during the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1993 — the year before Salman was born, in Britain — but returned after Colonel Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011.
In Manchester, Abdullah Muhsin Norris, the imam at a mosque where members of the Abedi family worshiped, said that Salman Abedi would sit around and read the Quran, avoiding other congregants. He was so quiet and withdrawn that he would have escaped notice, Mr. Norris said, but for the fact that Mr. Abedi twice committed minor infractions: lingering in the mosque after dawn prayers and wearing shoes while on his way to the mosque’s lavatory.
On one occasion, the young man responded angrily when chastised, telling the imam, “Don’t shout at me,” according to Mr. Norris. He was “acting like a child, and should know better,” the imam recalled.
The authorities are also looking into Mr. Abedi’s relationships with several known militants, including Raphael Hostey, an Islamic State recruiter who was killed in a drone strike in Syria last year. Mr. Hostey’s younger brother insisted on Thursday that his brother did not know Mr. Abedi, and then sped off on a moped.
Hamed El-Said, a professor of international political economy at Manchester Metropolitan University and an acquaintance of the Abedi family, said he believed the young man had fallen under the sway of peers.
“This is obviously another example of social radicalization with a small group of friends over the past two or three years — the question is where he met these people,” he said. “He is gullible, he is naïve, he is disconnected, he’s one of those individuals who, when you tell him something, might believe it. He would be the perfect mule for ISIS,” he added, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
As the authorities worked to piece together Mr. Abedi’s past, Britain paused to grieve.
Queen Elizabeth II visited teenagers at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital who had been injured in the blast, and she described the attack as “very wicked.”
At 11 a.m., much of the nation, from the Scottish Highlands to the City of London, observed a moment of silence to honor the victims.
Mancunians, as Manchester’s residents are known, filled St. Ann’s Square in the city center for a memorial service. They laid flowers, stuffed toys and cards of condolence on a flowing makeshift altar.
After the clock had tolled and the minute of silence had ended, someone in the back of the crowd began to sing “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by the band Oasis, which was formed in Manchester.
The group singalong was followed by rounds of applause and shouts of “Manchester, we love Manchester!” People continued to stand together around the flowers for another 20 minutes or so after the vigil had ended.
As the country mourned, politics intervened: The campaigning in advance of the parliamentary election scheduled for June 8 resumed after a brief hiatus following the attack. Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, went to Brussels for a NATO summit meeting, bearing a complaint for President Trump that American intelligence officials had leaked details about the investigation into the attack. Mr. Trump, in turn, called for an inquiry into those leaks, as his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, prepared to visit London on Friday for what the British Foreign Office called “an expression of U.K.-U.S. solidarity.”
Continue reading the main story