The older brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber is no longer in the UK and the bomber’s childhood friend was arrested on Monday trying to leave the country, the public inquiry into the terror attack has heard.
Ismail Abedi and Ahmed Taghdi had been given court orders warning them to attend the inquiry this week to answer questions about the radicalisation of Salman Abedi, who carried out the attack on 22 May 2017.
Taghdi, 29, accompanied Salman Abedi on a visit to the jailed terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah, who experts believe groomed the bomber, and Ismail Abedi was found to have Islamic State propaganda material on his phone.
Both were arrested after the bombing that took place at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds of others.
Neither man was charged with any offence and both were told they had the right not to answer any questions that may incriminate them at the public inquiry, sitting in Manchester.
Paul Greaney QC, addressing the inquiry’s chair, Sir John Saunders, said Ismail Abedi had refused to cooperate with the inquiry but had been ordered to attend on Thursday.
However, he is no longer in the country and there is “no indication” when he will return.
Greaney said: “As he surely must understand, if he does not do so the public may infer that he has something to hide and so, sir, may you.”
Ismail Abedi and the bomber’s parents, who are also not cooperating with the inquiry, are believed to be in Libya.
Taghdi was told on Friday that if he did not attend the inquiry this week he would be arrested. He attempted to leave the country on Monday and as a result was arrested and is now in custody.
The hearing was told that he was able to provide evidence of a return ticket to the UK on 20 October. His original destination was not disclosed.
He is now due to give evidence on Thursday, while Abdallah, currently in custody, is due to give evidence on Wednesday, both in person.
The inquiry has been told that both are key witnesses as the hearings turn to why and how Salman Abedi and his younger brother and fellow bomb plotter, Hashem Abedi, became radicalised.
Greaney said: “This is without question one of the most difficult and troubling questions for the inquiry to grapple with.
“It is very difficult to comprehend why a person with any shred of decency could ever think of detonating a suicide bomb in the midst of a crowd, killing or maiming many innocent victims.”
The hearing continues.