British intelligence service MI5 is launching an internal review into how much it knew about Manchester bomber Salman Abedi prior to last week’s deadly attack, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed on Monday.
Rudd’s comments follow media reports over the weekend that the agency was alerted to Abedi’s extremist views before he blew himself up last Monday, killing 22 people after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the atrocity.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that the FBI told MI5 in January that British-born Abedi — who is of Libyan descent — was part of a North African Islamic State cell plotting an attack in the UK.
Rudd declined to comment on exactly what was known about the 22-year-old bomber, during an interview with Sky News on Monday.
Asked during the interview: “Are you happy that MI5 should be investigating themselves?” Rudd replied, “I think it is right that they do this. In the future, we can look at anything else that might need to be done. As a first step, it is absolutely right.”
She added: “There’s a lot of information coming out about what happened, how this occurred, what people might or might not have known.
“I think it’s right that MI5 takes a look to find out what the facts are. We shouldn’t rush to make any conclusions at this stage.”
The BBC reported Monday that MI5 was alerted three times over Abedi’s extreme views. The Guardian newspaper reported that the agency launched two inquiries into how it missed the danger he posed.
In a BBC television interview on Sunday, Rudd was quizzed over whether MI5 has the resources to keep on top of the terror threat.
She said MI5 is looking at 500 different plots and has identified 23,000 jihadist extremists, of which 3,000 are on a “top list”. She said MI5 is currently recruiting 1,900 new staff and its budget “has gone up significantly”.
“We will make sure that we put the right resources in to keep people safe always,” she added.
When CNN asked the Home Office on Monday for a response to reports that the FBI warned MI5 about Abedi, a spokesman declined to comment.
The investigation into the Manchester attack continued Monday with the arrest of a 23-year-old man in Sussex, south of London, on suspicion of terrorism offenses. A total of 16 arrests have been made in the investigation so far.