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Father of Manchester suicide bomber believes in son’s innocence

Flowers and candles are seen after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended on Monday night. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

A former Libyan security official has claimed the father of the Manchester arena suicide bomber was a member of a onetime al-Qaida-supported group.

Abdel-Basit Haroun said Wednesday he knew Ramadan Abedi, father of Salman Abedi, when the elder Abedi was with the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The group had ties to al-Qaida.

Ramadan Abedi has denied his son was linked to militants or the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night.

“We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us,” the father told the Associated Press by telephone from Tripoli.

Multiple people were in custody — including Ramadan Abedi — Wednesday. The Islamic State group claimed after the attack one of its “soldiers” was responsible.

“This is clearly a network that we are investigating, and extensive activity is taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak,” Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the threat level to critical.

The father of the accused suicide bomber said his son sounded “normal,” when they talked five days ago. Salman Abedi, 22, was preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia to visit family for Ramadan.

Haroun said when he knew him, the father had belonged to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism, whose members are in al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

The Libyan Islamic group no longer exists.

Abedi said his son had been to Libya just over a month ago.

Another Abedi son, Ismail, was arrested in England on Tuesday morning.

The Abedi father fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi’s security authorities issued an arrest warrant. He eventually sought political asylum in Britain.

He is a manager for the Central Security force in Tripoli.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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