Manchester bombing: media fail to probe intelligence-jihadi collusion under May’s watch
Amid reports of multiple arrests and the ‘immense progress’ made by police and the security services in ’rounding-up’ the alleged terror network behind the Manchester bombing, a vital piece of the story has been wilfully ignored by the BBC and other leading media.
A key investigation by the reputable Middle East Eye has uncovered damning evidence that British intelligence agencies actively approved and assisted the travel movements of known jihadist individuals between the UK and Libya. In particular, it provides critical insight on the covert dealings between MI5/MI6 and the proscribed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal. Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with “no questions asked” as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday’s attack in Manchester.
The investigation relates how, for LIFG-linked individuals, it was “no questions asked”, with travel “sorted” by MI5:
One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was “shocked” that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted “I was allowed to go, no questions asked,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous. He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels. “They didn’t have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across,” said the source. But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.
British intelligence officers were, in effect, acting as ‘travel agents’ for known jihadists.
David Pratt at the Sunday Herald, citing the MEE investigation, offers supportive background:
Abedi’s parents fled Libya as opponents of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the British government only too happy to give them refuge in ‘Little Libya’ as Manchester became dubbed. Along with Birmingham and London, Manchester became a hub of Libyan opposition politics. It was from these cities that many would return home to fight against Gaddafi as part of a broad opposition, among them Salman Abedi’s father. In some cases though these anti-Gaddafi forces were closely linked to Islamist groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). This Islamist connection is crucial, not least because it has now become clear that the British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi, even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders. Unpalatable as it might be to consider let alone accept, last week’s Manchester attack is, in part, of Britain’s own making – insofar as the UK government willingly embraced a policy that exacerbated instability and a subsequent power vacuum in Libya that allowed jihadist terror to gain traction. Several foreign fighters now back in the UK and interviewed by the respected online news website Middle East Eye (MEE) confirmed that they had been able to travel to Libya during that time with “no questions asked”.
Alastair Sloan at Al-Jazeera provides another sharp piece on Abedi, the Libyan-Manchester connection and UK duplicity. Writing his column at the Mail, Peter Oborne offers further acknowledgement of the MEE research, valuable insights on the hierarchical culture of MI6, and damning comment on UK collusion.
But where is all this crucial information and analysis from the BBC, ITN and other ‘mainstream’ outlets? Lamentably, there’s been no wider flagging of the MEE story and its vital implications.
These revelations should be leading news, calling into question both the dark conduct of the security agencies and the very competence of Theresa May and her government. A real media would have this on the front pages every day. Indeed, proper reporting of this story should be enough to bring Theresa May down.
Instead, it’s all about her ‘strong response’ to the bombing, depicted for the public by shots of taped-off streets and armed police standing outside smashed doors. ‘Breaking news’ headlines announce that ‘suspects’ continue to be arrested – the subsequent release of most more quietly noted. Nominal questions are raised about why Salman Abedi wasn’t subject to closer surveillance, all dutifully assumed by ‘security correspondents’ as a ‘procedural failure’ to cope with the growing volume of people now on the intelligence radar.
Yet, given the security services’ long-standing relations with LIFG, is it credible that Abedi and connected others simply ‘slipped through the net’? As intelligence chiefs instruct an ‘internal inquiry’ into such ‘failings’, how readily the BBC accepts the proposition of MI5 ‘investigating’ itself. How ‘laughable‘ to see the ‘all-probing’ Guardian report it likewise.
Media speculation over Abedi’s possible motives includes only abbreviated suggestions of ‘blowback‘, the link to UK foreign/war policy framed mainly as an election issue around whether Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed security agenda can really be trusted against May’s more ‘proven record’ and ‘stronger commitment’ to fighting terror.
While the BBC’s Andrew Neil conducted a virulent smear job on Corbyn, spending almost half their interview on spurious ‘evidence’ of his ‘IRA associations’, May has been spared any such interrogation by the BBC over her actual part in protecting Libyan-connected terrorists.We also hear the usual calls for ‘greater Muslim vigilance’, and ‘need to identify’ those elements feeding radicalisation, all coated in supportive liberal messages to the wider Muslim community. Yet, much more carefully avoided is the possibility of deeper state collusion with those very jihadist individuals and groupings, the issue here again pitched around the ‘need for greater sharing of information’ and ‘lessons to be learned’ by MI5.
Beyond all this token ‘analysis’ and establishment ‘self-inspection’, real pressing questions should be exercising serious journalists:
What is the precise connection between the UK security forces, MI5/MI6, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Manchester and other parts of the UK?
Why, as detailed by the MEE report, was there an ‘open-door’ arrangement in place for the easy movement of Salman Abedi and other jihadists between the UK and Libya?
Why wasn’t Abedi detained, or more closely monitored, by the security agencies despite mosque authorities and others reporting concerns over his conduct?
Why didn’t the UK act upon recent US intel warnings about Abedi?
Why were Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the UK intelligence services so aggrieved at the US leaking of Abedi’s name and details?
Why aren’t the BBC and other ‘mainstream’ media headlining the MEE story as central context to the Manchester bombing?
Why aren’t the media pointing a damning finger at Theresa May, who must have known about this arrangement, not just on becoming PM, but, even more crucially, under her watch as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016?
How was the UK’s regime change decision to oust Gaddafi conveyed by the Home Office to the security agencies, the green light given to assist LIFG and the instruction made to lift control orders on known jihadists?
Where is the investigation of David Cameron’s own role in this affair and his bombing of Libya in 2011?
While a few decent efforts to address these questions have been made, most major media either avoid, or merely hint at, the dark extent of UK malfeasance. All told, the negating of this story is a striking example of compliant, boundaried journalism, understanding the limitations of critical enquiry, and the safe, ‘dignified’ tone to be observed. Much is still to be learned about the actual motives and movements of Abedi and his assumed network. But the absence of serious media coverage and investigation only serves to hide deep state subterfuge and protect those war-promoting politicians responsible for intensifying the terror environment.