Salman Abedi reportedly learned how to make the bomb he used to kill 22 people in the Manchester attack from YouTube tutorial videos.
Security services originally suspected that the complexity of the device — a type favored by ISIS — meant that it could have been put together only by an experienced bomb maker. The fact that Abedi, a 22-year-old university dropout, managed to build it after viewing online tutorials, even if he also had real-world training, will increase pressure on internet companies regarding the accessibility of extremism content.
Two days after the Manchester attack, a series of bomb-making guides were found freely available on Facebook and YouTube, including step-by-step instructions on how to make a bomb using acetone peroxide, an ingredient used by Abedi. Similar videos could be seen on YouTube yesterday.
According to The Times, Abedi used the video platform to learn about the manufacture of improvised devices, and downloaded material from other websites about the chemical compound used in the bomb.
A source with knowledge of the police investigation told the newspaper the information about how to construct devices using TATP – the same homemade explosives used by ISIS in the Paris and Brussels attacks – was accessed on a range of online sources, including the dark web.
Following the attack, a 22-minute video on YouTube and Facebook from a series called “Jihadi Ideas for Lone Lions” told viewers how to make a household bomb from the same type of explosive used by Abedi.
The video showed someone making a bomb using easily obtained household items. The video has now been taken down.
Abedi is believed to have used at least three properties, including in Blackley, his former home in Fallowfield and another flat in Granby Row, central Manchester, to prepare the bomb.
Officers also fear Abedi may have made a second bomb after raids on his home discovered a stash of chemical explosives, which is believed to have been enough to “build two or three bombs”.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that police chiefs will consider the possibility of offering a gun to every frontline police officer in England and Wales, to counter the threat of a marauding terrorist attack.
A discussion paper on the subject has been drawn up for the next meeting of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which wants to look at how to boost armed police numbers to deal with a crisis, following the atrocities in Manchester and London.
The paper is intended to start a debate on the issue among police leaders at the two-day meeting that starts on 12 July – although it is thought at this stage unlikely that any wider arming will be agreed upon. Routine arming is controversial within policing and many do not support it.
But it may also mark the start of a shift in thinking on the topic, which could speed up in the event of any future attacks. Also up for discussion, sources say, is the introduction of more specially trained armed officers in cars, and offering handguns to some patrol officers as well as the idea that all frontline officers could be offered training to carry a gun.
Traditionally, most police in Great Britain are unarmed – unlike their counterparts in Northern Ireland – but police sources say the longstanding principle is under pressure after four terrorist attacks in three months.
One of the reasons the topic is on the agenda is concern over how some areas – particularly those outside London – would cope with a marauding terrorist attack.
One option in the paper for getting armed officers more quickly to the scene of an attack is for officers to be offered a sidearm, like officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The paper also suggests that beat officers who are now unarmed would get about two weeks of training in how to use a handgun. That is much less training than the six weeks for fully qualified armed officers.
The beat officers would then get a day of refresher training and re-accreditation twice a year. The upside of this option is that police chiefs might get enough officers volunteering, and it would boost the number of officers who can handle a gun in a crisis more quickly than other options.
However, handguns cost £500 each, and training would further stretch resources, as officers would have to take time off to train.
Those behind the discussion point to the fact that in the 2013 terrorist murder of Lee Rigby, in Woolwich, south London, unarmed police were unable to intervene until their armed colleagues arrived on the scene. One source added: “It will allow officers to access a firearm in the event of an attack.”
In the case of London Bridge, it took eight minutes for officers to find and kill the three terrorists, who were attacking people with knives.
The Westminster attack in March saw about 50 armed officers on the scene in 11 minutes, although in that instance the attacker was stopped because an armed protection officer happened to be in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament.