Gritty part of Manchester recalls 'angry' suicide bomber

by Rosie SCAMMELL
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Gritty part of Manchester recalls 'angry' suicide bomber

Gritty part of Manchester recalls 'angry' suicide bomber

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) - The terror manhunt in Manchester focused on a gritty area of the city notorious for gangland murders on Friday as the head of a local mosque where suicide bomber Salman Abedi worshipped recalled him as an "angry" young man.

Armed police raided a house in Moss Side overnight in connection with Monday's attack, shutting off a street of red-brick homes and shouting: "Hands on the ground! Get on the ground!"

A 30-year-old man was arrested in the raid which involved around 30 officers, neighbours said, while police searched a barber's shop nearby where a local shopkeeper said three of Abedi's cousins worked.

At the Salaam Community Association and Masjid, housed in a squat modern block, mosque chairman Abdullah Norris said 22-year-old Abedi had started coming there in January but had flouted mosque rules.

Norris said he had told Abedi, who killed 22 people and injured 116 when he blew himself up outside a pop concert in the Manchester Arena, to leave the mosque after finding him in a prayer room after closing time.

"He was angry. He said I shouldn't shout because he's not a kid. I said: 'Yes you are, otherwise you would not behave in that manner'," the 70-year-old told AFP as worshippers started to arrive for Friday prayers.

Norris said Abedi had started coming to the small mosque in January even though he lived in a different part of south Manchester but was not a "regular".

The deprived neighbourhood has suffered from criminality in the past but the situation has improved in recent years.

Media reports have linked Abedi to Moss Side's gangs and the murder last year of one of his friends, 18-year-old Abdul Wahab Hafidah, heightened his anger.

"I remember Salman at his funeral vowing revenge," a family friend told The Wall Street Journal newspaper.

Norris said he was unaware of Abedi's activities beyond praying and reading the Koran and defended the role of the local Muslim community.

"Since our Muslim community has come to Moss Side it has become a much better place," he said.

- 'Fall prey' to radicals -

The arena attack was discussed at Friday prayers as the imam sought to reassure people and call for unity.

"Most of the news we've been getting from the mosque is: keep calm, this has happened, obviously we don't agree with it, we don't condone anything like this and it's not what we practice," a 25-year-old man, who asked not to be named, said afterwards.

He recognised Abedi and said locals were "very surprised" by what had happened.

A 22-year-old worshipper said there was already a lot of engagement with young people to stop them being radicalised online but ultimately it was up to individuals to take responsibility.

"Sometimes, somebody could try and radicalise you but if you're a strong character, it's not possible. They usually target someone who's soft and can fall prey to their ideology," he told AFP.

- 'Hell of a lot better' -

Residents described their area as friendly and multicultural despite the police raids, although they remembered its dark past.

"It's always been a lovely place to live and I've always really enjoyed how we meet people from all walks of life here," said student August Urquhart.

Outside the nearby barber's shop which was raided on Friday, locals expressed surprise that the terror probe had arrived on their doorstep.

"I've lived round here, I've seen people get killed, murdered, kidnapped. This is just taking it to a whole new level," said Paul, a 49-year-old resident who said there had been a reduction in crime in recent years.

Del Davies, an employee at the pharmacy which sits next to the barbershop, was confident that if authorities could tackle gangs in Moss Side they could also take on terrorists.

"Since the idiots stopped shooting each other... (it's) a hell of a lot better," she told AFP.

"Most of them are in prison. If they can do it with them, I'm sure they can do it with these."