A man suspected of aiding the Manchester Arena bomber was stripped of his British citizenship but had it returned after the government dropped a court case on the advice of the MI5 intelligence agency, the BBC reported on Saturday.
Mohammed Soliman, 26, was arrested by Libyan authorities after a tipoff from British security services, which discovered that he had bought 10 liters of sulphuric acid online for Hashem Abedi, the bomber’s brother.
The news was revealed as part of the public inquiry into the 2017 attack carried out by Salman Abedi, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds.
After Soliman was stripped of his British citizenship and arrested in Libya, he was detained for eight months and claimed he faced ill-treatment in prison.
The 26-year-old maintains that he did not intentionally help the Abedi brothers in the attack, and bought the chemicals after he was told that Hashem needed it for “legitimate reasons.”
MI5, which oversaw investigations into the attack and is responsible for monitoring and foiling terror plots, was criticized in the public inquiry for failing to prevent the bombing.
MI5 has claimed that the Abedi brothers acted alone in the bombing, but the inquiry has suggested that they approached several friends and acquaintances to request the purchase of chemicals in the lead-up to the attack.
Soliman, who worked in a restaurant with Hashem, was approached and bought 10 liters of sulphuric acid, which was delivered to his home months before the attack in May 2017.
Police raided his home following the attack and discovered remnants of the chemicals, but Soliman had traveled to the Libyan city of Benghazi a month earlier to visit family.
Following his arrest and detainment in Libya, he was not questioned by British police or MI5 about his potential role in the bombing.
He had his citizenship returned in 2021 by Priti Patel
, then home secretary, after raising an appeal.
The BBC reported that the U-turn came on the advice of MI5, which had concluded that the Abedi brothers had acted alone — without having questioned Soliman.
However, Soliman returned to the UK in 2021 and was immediately arrested, but later released after questioning.
In a witness statement, he claimed that Hashem had encouraged him to allow the brothers use of his bank account to buy engine oil.
Soliman said: “I was not aware and did not suspect that Hashem and/or Salman planned to attack any location or person or carry out any form of terrorist attack.”
He added that his visit to Libya to see family was already booked prior to the bombing. He was informed by police that he would not face any charges.
A day after the bombing, Hashem was arrested in Libya after his brother, who died in the attack, was named.
He was transferred to the UK in 2019 after claiming that he had been tortured while in Libyan detention, and was sentenced a year later to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 55 years.
Victims’ families told the BBC that if Soliman had remained in the UK, he would likely have been sentenced alongside Hashem.
Caroline Curry, whose 19-year-old son died in the bombing, said a detective had told her that Soliman “would have been alongside him (Hashem), charged with 22 counts of murder.”
The Home Office said in a statement: “The government, working with our world-class police and security and intelligence agencies, will always take strongest action possible to protect national security and public safety.”