MANCHESTER • Suicide bomber Salman Abedi was a university dropout with proven links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, according to France's Interior Minister.
Officials said Abedi, 22, born to a devoutly Muslim Libyan family in Britain's third-biggest city, was known to British security services. He worshipped at a mosque in a Manchester suburb popular with students.
His father Ramadan Abedi was reportedly a well- known figure who sometimes performed the call to prayer. He said he had spoken to his son last week to discuss meeting in Tripoli during Ramadan, and expressed disbelief that his son had committed the deadliest act of terrorism in more than a decade.
"I was really shocked when I saw the news, I still don't believe it," he said in an interview at his home in Tripoli. "My son was as religious as any child who opens his eyes in a religious family.
"As we were discussing news of similar attacks earlier, he was always against those attacks, saying there was no religious justification for them. I don't understand how he would have become involved in an attack that led to the killing of children."
The father said he served as a security officer during Muammar Qaddafi's rule before being accused by the regime of links to extremist groups, accusations he strongly denied.
He left for Britain in 1993, returning to Libya in 2008, where he was joined by most of his family after the ouster of Qaddafi in the 2011 revolution. Abedi and one brother stayed in Britain to finish their studies.
"Every father knows his son and his thoughts; my son does not have extremist thoughts," the father said. "Until now, my son is a suspect, and the authorities have not come up with a final conclusion."
But British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Abedi had been known to intelligence services, without going into details. The family lived in the Fallowfield area of south Manchester for at least 10 years, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper. Around 16,000 Libyans live in Britain, and Manchester is home to the largest number.
Abedi's family was closely linked to the Didsbury Mosque, a former Methodist chapel bought in 1967 by donors from the Syrian community.
A senior figure from the mosque, Mr Mohammed Saeed, told The Guardian that when he gave a sermon denouncing terror in 2015, Abedi stared him down.
"Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon," Mr Saeed said. "He was showing me hatred."
Abedi began studying business and management at Salford University in Manchester in 2014, a source told the Press Association news agency, but he dropped out after two years and did not complete his degree.
He did not live in university accommodation, had not been in any trouble at the university, was not on any radar for pastoral or social care and was not known to have participated in any university societies.
It is understood that Abedi never met the university's resident imam.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE , BLOOMBERG