Ramadan Abedi had done his best as a father, he insisted.

He tried to intervene with his children when he “found their way of thinking wrong,” but it didn’t work. She could almost have been ignoring a set of failed GCSEs, or some little teenage brush with the law. But in fact, that plaintive, self-righteous message to her sister was written after her son Salman detonated a shrapnel-filled bomb in the crowd leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people.

Nothing in the published note suggests empathy for all the other parents who lost someone that night, or for the parents who desperately wandered the lobby after the explosion, screaming for their missing sons and daughters. Nor does it acknowledge what a public inquiry led by a judge into the attack concluded this week: that the mother, father and older brother of the 22-year-old suicide bomber held extremist beliefs and shared responsibility for having radicalized him.

As teenagers, both Salman and his younger brother Hashem (now serving a life sentence for helping plan the attack) were taken by their father to their native Libya, where Salman is believed to have seen combat in the civil war and learned how to build a bomb. While his parents came and went from Libya, the three children stayed in Manchester, where Salman Abedi mixed with drug dealers, gang members and Islamic State supporters. As the research’s radicalization expert Dr. Matthew Wilkinson brutally put it: “I’ve never seen such a complete picture of the petri dish absolutely full of germs.”

But her parents, who did more than anyone else to create that toxic culture, apparently have no intention of answering the questions that must haunt other grieving parents. Now that they live in Libya, they would not be involved in Sir John Saunders’s investigation. Abedi’s older brother fled the country to avoid questioning and his younger brother, interviewed in prison, offered only a torrent of Islamic State propaganda that the judge deemed unworthy to publish. No wonder Caroline Curry, who lost her 19-year-old son, Liam, along with his girlfriend, Chloe Rutherford, in the bombing, concluded in a statement so charged with grief and anger that it was painful to even hear it, that she wanted the rest of his life. the family also faces justice. She, she said, would hold those around Abedi responsible for the loss of her, as well as MI5.

Because if his family essentially made him what he was, it was the security services that couldn’t contain the fallout, and it’s this latest failure that has, understandably, dominated the headlines.

Despite repeatedly appearing on the edges of his radar since his teens, Salman Abedi was not considered high risk or referred to the Prevent anti-terrorism program. A series of human errors in interpreting and reporting intelligence received prior to the attack resulted in him not being stopped at (or followed home from) Manchester airport when he returned from Libya just four days before the attack. Saunders couldn’t say for sure that this would have prevented the tragedy, but he found that a “significant” opportunity had been missed. In short, the victims could have lived.

He also notes that at the time the security services were under the pressure of a heavy workload: in evidence heard behind closed doors, one officer described the team in the North-West as “struggling to cope”; they recalled telling his manager that they were concerned that “something would inevitably happen at some point.” The judge concluded that the pressures on resources had not led to wasted opportunities in the Abedi case, but could have more broadly influenced the lower priority given to Libya-related cases, at a time when fears were centered on Syria.

Saunders also submitted, along with his public report, a separate file of recommendations deemed too sensitive to publish, for reasons of national security. Whatever they are, we are now expected to trust that a Home Secretary who has been busy this week vowing to end “political correctness in our national security” is aware of this incredibly complex issue.

Of course, the intelligence services must come out of this with the tools and resources they need. But what happened in Manchester is also a powerful reminder of how important the petri dish is. Saunders urged ministers to respond urgently to an extremism review commissioned by the Home Office two years ago that, among other things, suggested creating new offenses to glorify terrorists.

Since it’s all too easy to see how these could become dangerously broad crimes, the report raises some tough questions. But the government’s goal is to deal with tough issues, and that includes tackling extremist beliefs, whether Islamist or neo-Nazis, broadcast at home. Somehow, we have to get to the next angry young man who grows up, as the Abedi judge said, so surrounded by extremist influences that he had almost nothing to tie him to “law-abiding society.”

After such a grim tragedy, people often reach for the comforting cliché that love wins out over hate. Sadly, all the love in the world is not enough when a young man walks into a crowded room with a backpack full of explosives – only professional skill, timing and perhaps luck could have saved lives that night. However, what remains true is that hate destroys and love creates. Several families grieving that night have founded charities and campaigns from which others will benefit and through which their loved ones live. Raise your children in hate and, as the Abedis discovered, you risk being reduced to ashes.


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