(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)
More information has come out about the suicide bomber who murdered 22 people in Manchester on Monday evening. It is now apparent that various intelligence failures allowed this attack to happen.
Salman Abedi was born in the U.K., the son of refugees from Libya. He was described as a normal, happy guy who supported Manchester United and studied business in university.
A few years ago, however, everything changed. Abedi spent time in Libya – a country torn apart by war that has become a breeding ground for Islamist terrorist groups.
He dropped out of school and withdrew from his social life in the U.K.
He grew a beard, started dressing in traditional Islamic clothing and began spending more and more time at his local mosque in Didsbury.
Those around him noticed these changes. According to news reports out of the UK, family members, friends and elders at his mosque reported his radicalization to British authorities.
They described him as “dangerous” and “hateful”. He was kicked out of his mosque two months ago and reported to a counter-terrorism hotline, an anti-radicalization program and to MI5 – Britain’s intelligence and security agency.
And yet, nothing was done to stop this terrorist from carrying out his grisly massacre.
Concerns about this man’s past don’t stop here.
Abedi recently travelled to Turkey, and it is believed he crossed into Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State.
France’s interior minister said he had “proven links” with Islamic State.
And, according to a report in the New York Times, Abedi may have been connected to an extremist imam who once worked in Ottawa. According to a U.S. source, Canadian intelligence officials warned the imam was “promoting violent jihad.”
Abedi was known to security agencies across Europe. He was being monitored. He was part of a network of radicalized Islamists operating in the U.K. – a cell that allegedly included his own brothers, both now being held by British authorities.
It seems obvious Salman Abedi should have been arrested immediately upon returning to the U.K. after fighting alongside terrorists.
Instead, this 22-year-old was able to bring a large and sophisticated nail bomb into a crowded public space and detonate it, killing all those around him.
British police and security forces apparently did nothing to stop Abedi.
This represents a catastrophic failure of the security apparatus we rely on to fight against modern terrorism. It shows a real weakness in the way we deal with radicalized Islamists.
There are some 3,500 individuals being monitored in the U.K., including several hundred who returned home after fighting alongside Islamic State in the Middle East.
Likewise, Canadian officials are monitoring hundreds of radicalized young men who they believe may be planning their own deadly attacks in Canada.
But monitoring these radicals is not enough.
Authorities in both the U.K. and Canada need to be able to take action when a person is on a path towards terrorism.
We need tougher laws so officials can arrest, detain and charge those who travel abroad to fight alongside terrorist armies, as well as those who support a violent Islamist doctrine.
In the case of Salman Abedi, red flags were...(READ MORE)