Salman Abedi, the Manchester terrorist attacker, smoked cannabis and dropped out of the University of Salford (where he was studying for a business degree). Some of his friends say he may have been involved in gangs before he became radicalised. After quitting university, he worked at a bakery.
Some experts are seeing this trajectory as a somewhat typical shift from crime to terrorism. Because criminals are accustomed to violence, according to some, there is a smaller jump to political violence.
At one point, Abedi flew an ISIS flag from his Manchester home but the police did not interview.
Abedi attended the Burnage Academy for Boys between 2009 and 2011 but the school did not make a statement because of the status of the investigation.
Neighbours were not very familiar with Abedi but noticed a recent increase in the religiosity of his appearance. Friends from school said that he was ‘fun’ until he went to Libya in 2011. Abedi reportedly had just returned from a trip to Libya a few days before the attack.
Abedi’s cousins were arrested as well and two of them were recently released.
Talha Asmal, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was believed to be one of four suicide bombers who targeted security forces near an oil refinery in the town of Baiji.
The family of the 17-year-old said they were “utterly devastated and heartbroken” after he detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives in the north of the country. They claimed ISIS militants had preyed on his “innocence and vulnerability” and that “Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager. He never harboured any ill-will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind.”
The family said he came “from a close-knit, hard-working, peace-loving and law-abiding British Muslim family” which unreservedly “condemns and abhors all acts of violence wherever perpetrated”. They said despite him never exhibiting any extreme or radical views, he had been exploited by extremists on the internet “in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him”.
Unbeknown to them and completely against their will, they said he travelled to Iraq via Turkey and fell under the spell of Isis handlers who are “too cowardly to do their own dirty work”.