By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) – The brother of the bomber who blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in the English city of Manchester three years ago was equally guilty of murdering the 22 victims, a court was told on Tuesday.
Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, detonated his bomb at Manchester Arena at the close of a show by the U.S. pop singer in May 2017. Among the dead were seven children, the youngest aged just eight.
On Tuesday, his brother Hashem Abedi, also 22, went on trial accused of helping his brother to carry out the bombing. He denies any involvement in the attack, including charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion.
“Hashem Abedi is just as responsible for this atrocity and for the offences which are identified in the indictment … just as surely as if he had selected the target and detonated the bomb himself,” prosecutor Duncan Penny said.
Penny told the Old Bailey court Hashem Abedi helped his brother get the ingredients for making the homemade bomb and that together they experimented with its construction, buying screws and nails to be used as shrapnel.
They stored and made the device at a separate address in Manchester and, shortly before they returned to Libya in mid-April 2017, they bought a car to be used to store the bomb-making equipment.
The court heard how Hashem Abedi asked if he could take home vegetable oil cans from the takeaway shop where he worked, saying that he wanted to sell the metal for scrap, but instead using it for bomb-making.
Metal from one of the cans was later found at the scene of the bombing.
“This explosion was the culmination of months of planning, experimentation and preparation by the two of them,” Penny said. “The bomb which was detonated was self-evidently designed to kill and to maim as many people as possible.”
The attack injured 264 people in addition to the 22 killed, and 670 people have since reported psychological trauma.
Hashem Abedi was extradited to Britain from Libya in July last year after the Libyan authorities agreed to hand him over.
Islamic State said it was responsible for the attack in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, but security services have always treated that claim with scepticism.
In 2018, British lawmakers concluded that the MI5 security service had missed potential opportunities to prevent the bombing.
The Abedi family emigrated to Britain during the rule of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, moving from London to the Fallowfield area of south Manchester. Hashem Abedi was born in Manchester. The brothers’ parents returned to Libya after Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.
The brothers showed some signs of radicalisation in the years leading up to the bombing, the prosecutor said.
(Editing by Stephen Addison)