Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Manchester last month, met with so-called Islamic State militants in Libya prior to the attack, The New York Times reported Saturday. Citing current and retired intelligence officials, the report said Abedi traveled to Tripoli and the town of Sabratha to meet with members of the Katibat al-Battar al-Libi, an ISIS unit that had previously been based in Syria and has been tied to the 2015 Paris attacks. Abedi, who came from a family of Libyan immigrants, continued communications with members of the group after returning to Manchester, a European intelligence chief said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. While the Islamic State’s involvement in the attack comes as no surprise, investigators had previously been unable to say whether Abedi acted alone or was guided by the militant group. Experts now say Abedi’s contacts with the group may point to a resurgent threat to Europe posed by militants in Libya, where the group recently suffered military setbacks but seems to have retained its operational capabilities. “Most of the blood spilled in Europe in the more spectacular attacks, using guns and bombs, really all began at the time when Katibat al-Battar went back to Libya,” Cameron Colquhoun, a former counterterrorism analyst for Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, told The New York Times. While members of the group are losing ground in Syria, they can easily shift operations to Libya, he said. “That is where the threat trajectory to Europe began—when these men returned to Libya and had breathing space,” he said. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind the 2015 Paris attacks, is believed to have gotten his start in the group. Anis Amri, last December’s Berlin truck attacker, was also found to be in direct contact with the group in Libya.
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