The mosque attended by the Manchester suicide bomber has been described as a “jihadist” institution, and it has previously been accused of raising funds for an al-Qaeda affiliated terror group.The Didsbury mosque was well known to Salman Abedi and his direct family. The terrorist learnt the Quran there, his brother taught Islamic lessons there, and his father, Abu Abedi, was a “well known” figure who performed the Muslim call to prayer.
On the ‘Muslims in Britain’ mosques directory, the institution is described as a “Salafi-Ikhwani” mosque, which “is a nicer way of saying jihadist”, according to Ghaffar Husain, head outreach at the Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank that has advised the Government.
Salafism is an austere, fundamentalist strain of Islam, with adherents aiming to live as Muhammad and the first Muslim did in the seventh century.
The mosque’s management is described as Syrian and Arab, and the city’s Libyan community, one of the largest in the UK, reportedly frequents it. The Abedi family lived just a short distance from the building and neighbours have talked about them flying a Libyan flag flying from their house.
Mr. Abedi is believed to have visited Libya earlier this year and, according to friends, returned a few weeks ago. His family left Libya as asylum seekers, and police are probing alleged links to the hard line Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was until recently affiliated to al-Qaeda.
“[His farther] Abu Ismail comes and goes between here and there,” a family friend told The Guardian. “I can’t believe [Salman Abedi] would have been radicalised in Tripoli. All those types have been driven out of the city. It must have happened here.
“But what was he doing, murdering all those people. There must have been somebody influencing him. It’s terrible. He was off his head,” they said.
In 2005, an LIFG fighter was arrested in Libya. He was accused of terror offences and told a court he had previously lived in Manchester, where he raised money for the al-Qaeda-linked group at Didsbury mosque after being granted asylum in the UK. The mosque denied the claim.
The mosque building was originally the “Albert Park Methodist Chapel”, which opened its doors in 1883 before closing in 1962 and later being converted into a mosque.
It is part of the Manchester Islamic Centre, which is registered as a charity with the Charity Commission and receives state benefits accordingly.