A police officer stands guard next to a barbers shop on Princess Road, Moss Side after being raided by anti-terror police during the investigation of the Manchester Arena attack on May 26, 2017 in Manchester, England.
A cousin of the Manchester suicide bomber, who runs a barber shop, was being questioned in connection with the attack on Friday night, as police said they were confident they had identified much of the terrorist’s network.
Abdallah Forjani, 24, was arrested on Wednesday along with two other men at his home in the Fallowfield area of the city. Armed officers raided his Fade’Away barber shop in the early hours of Friday morning and took away a number of items of interest.
The arrests were among a total of 13 that have been made in recent days.
Early on Saturday morning, two men aged 20 and 22 were arrested on suspicion of terror offences after officers carried out a controlled explosion to gain entry to an address in the Cheetham Hill area of the city.
Eleven people remain in custody after two people were released without charge.
One unsubstantiated theory is that Salman Abedi may have used the shop to obtain hydrogen peroxide – a chemical used in the hairdressing industry which can also be used to build bombs. It is not suggested that Mr Forjani was complicit with Abedi and the attack.
The devices used in the deadly 7/7 Tube bombings in London were made using large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and in the wake of the attacks measures were taken to restrict the chemical’s sale to only those who could show they had a genuine use for it.
© PA Armed British Transport Police Specialist Operations officers on board a Virgin train to Birmingham New Street at Euston station in London as armed police officers are patrolling on board trains nationwide for the first time. Locals in Fallowfield said the barber shop was run by a Libyan family related to the Abedi family who live at a house that was raided on Tuesday.
Neighbour Mohammed Mubarak, 18, said the bomber’s aunt and uncle live at the address along with around eight sons and daughters, who range from primary school age to their early 20s.
Byron Gibbs, 79, who has run Gibbs Hardware next door to the barber shop for 33 years, said it had opened about 12 months ago. He said: “Everyone round here has noticed that the shop has not opened since Monday and they usually open every day, including Sundays.”
Mr Gibbs said he had recognised Salman Abedi when he saw his picture on television. He said: “I have seen him a few times just walking past in the street. I don’t know if he used this barber shop or he is involved with anyone there.”
A neighbouring newsagent spoke highly of Mr Forjani and expressed concern for his business and reputation, saying “it is unfair to tar Abs [Forjani] with the same brush just because he’s related. He is being roped in by association. He comes from a hard working family.”
He continued: “I’m sure he will be released without charge but his name and reputation will be tarnished.”
Abedi is believed to have practised making bombs in a one-bedroom flat he rented six weeks before the attack. He paid around £700 in cash to rent the 12th-floor flat in north-east Manchester.
When Aiman Elwafi, 38, who was subletting the council-owned flat, went to check on the property, he found a curtain cut into sections, and pieces of metal and bolts in the bathroom. The smoke alarms were removed and the electricity switched off.
Mr Elwafi is said to have gone to police on Wednesday after recognising Abedi’s face on the news but was arrested and remains in custody. His pizza takeaway in St Helens was raided on Friday and several items seized.
Mr Elwafi’s business partner, Mohamed El-Hudarey, told The Mirror that Abedi rang Mr Elwafi in early April to ask about the flat, which was advertised on Gumtree.
He said: “He didn’t hear from him again until around six weeks later, when he rang him at midnight. He told Aiman that he needed to leave right away. He left the key with neighbours.”
He said Mr Elwafi found Abedi’s belongings and there was a “very strange smell”. Mr El-Hudarey claimed Mr Elwafi was innocent and the victim of “very bad luck” stating that he hoped he would be released within the next few days.
The development came as Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer said the police had made “immense” progress in the investigation and had identified a “large part of the network”.
Asst Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “They are very significant, these arrests.
“We are very happy we’ve got our hands around some of the key players that we are concerned about but there’s still a little bit more to do.”
Activity in the Manchester probe is expected to continue throughout the weekend and investigators remained at at least 12 locations across the North West on Friday evening.
A 44-year-old man was on Friday night dramatically arrested on a bus in the Rusholme area of Manchester.
Witneseses described a commotion outside a theatre on Oxford Road as armed police boarded a bus at around 7pm. The bus was evacuated as police cordoned off the road.
Mark Roberts, one of Abedi’s former teachers at Burnage Academy for Boys, described him as an “dislikable boy who displayed average laziness, mediocre rudeness and refused to complete his coursework on time”, but added there was nothing to suggest he was capable of such violence.