KUALA LUMPUR • Three Malaysian students questioned by British police over the Manchester attack may have been taken advantage of by suicide bombing suspect Salman Abedi, reported Malaysian daily The Star yesterday.
The students, who lived in a rented house in Banff Road, Manchester, were detained on Monday and questioned at Longsight police station for just over three hours before being unconditionally released. British broadsheet The Times reported that there were concerns Abedi may have stayed in their home to avoid being detected by the authorities, though the newspaper said it was not clear what Abedi's link to the address was.
Interviews with friends of the Malaysian students revealed the suspect may have "taken advantage of their hospitality" while planning his attack. A friend of the students quoted in The Times said the three were "strongly opposed to extremism and terrorism" and are of good character. The friend also acknowledged that Abedi may have abused their charity as fellow Muslims.
British security services have conducted several raids since Abedi detonated his suicide bomb at the Manchester Arena concert hall on May 22 in an attack that killed 22 children and adults, and injured 116 others. Some 16 people have been arrested and numerous premises across Manchester raided since, in the police's quest to unearth Abedi's "terror network" and its key players.
A Malaysian High Commission officer in Britain said male Muslim occupants living in houses neighbouring the students' had also been arrested and questioned, reported The New Straits Times. Among the questions reportedly asked by police were whether the Malaysian students knew Abedi, if they had met him and whether they sympathised with his cause.
Although the students were released, it was reported that police confiscated their mobile phones and computers for further investigation.
The students, in their second and third years at Manchester University, have said they are fine because they have not done anything wrong.
Interviews with friends of the Malaysian students reveal that the suspect may have "taken advantage of their hospitality" while planning his attack. A friend of the students quoted in The Times explained that the three were "strongly opposed to extremism and terrorism" and are of good character. The friend also acknowledged that Abedi may have abused their charity as fellow Muslims.
Abedi,22, was a business student who dropped out of university. The Muslim community where he grew up reported him in the past to security services for fear of his growing extremist ideology. Born in Britain to a devout Muslim Libyan family, Abedi was known to security services and reports claimed he turned to radicalisation in recent years.
Yesterday, Reuters reported that Abedi likely purchased most of the key bomb components himself and many of his actions were carried out alone. But police said they have still not ruled out the possibility that he was part of a wider network.
An earlier raid on his home uncovered a working bomb factory with a huge stash of explosive chemicals and other components. It is believed he could have assembled the bomb himself, and there are fears he might have built a second device now in the hands of other militants.
A total of 13 people remain in detention over the bombing: Abedi's father Ramadan and his brother Hashem, in detention in Libya, and 11 others in British custody.
Britain's third-largest city has been in mourning this past week, but a semblance of normality resumed on Tuesday when the train station next to the attack site reopened.
However, questions are growing over whether intelligence services missed any vital clues, after a report in the Mail On Sunday said United States authorities had previously warned Britain's MI5 intelligence service about Abedi. British police revealed on Tuesday that Abedi had appeared in police records for theft, receiving stolen goods and assault in 2012, but he was never flagged up for any radical views.