Manchester Arena bombing extradition 'delayed by Libya clashes'

image captionArena bomb victims. Top (left to right): Lisa Lees, Alison Howe, Georgina Callender, Kelly Brewster, John Atkinson, Jane Tweddle, Marcin Klis - Middle (left to right): Angelika Klis, Courtney Boyle, Saffie Roussos, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, Martyn Hett, Michelle Kiss, Philip Tron, Elaine McIver - Bottom (left to right): Eilidh MacLeod, Wendy Fawell, Chloe Rutherford, Liam Allen-Curry, Sorrell Leczkowski, Megan Hurley, Nell Jones

The extradition of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi's brother has been delayed by fighting in Libya, the BBC has been told.

According to the country's interior minister, a Libyan court has agreed to return Hashem Abedi to the UK.

Mr Abedi - who is wanted in relation to the deaths of 22 people - was taken into custody in Tripoli shortly after the May 2017 terror attack.

But fighting on the outskirts has been blamed for delays in the process.

The Interior Minister of Libya's UN-backed government, Fathi Bashagha, told the BBC the court had agreed to extradite Mr Abedi to the UK because he is a British citizen.

But a week after the ruling, he said, the capital came under attack by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, a commander from Eastern Libya.

image copyrightLibyan Interior Ministry
image captionHashem Abedi's extradition has been delayed.

Mr Bashaga said Libya was "awaiting the procedure" which would allow it to hand Mr Abedi over to the UK.

But "because of the war, everything is stopped", he said, and the extradition would not happen until fighting had ended.

"We are paying all our attention to how to push back Haftar's militia attacking Tripoli. This is important for us now."

Fears of war mount in Libya

Orla Guerin, BBC News, in Tripoli

The sound of distant shelling and artillery fire has become familiar in Tripoli once again. For the past three weeks forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar have been blocked at the outskirts of the city. The military strongman from Eastern Libya has not been strong enough to take the capital.

But there are fears that his offensive could deteriorate into all-out war, and allow the so-called Islamic State to regroup in Libya. Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, shares these concerns.

He said the attack on Tripoli was "the ignition of a civil war" and that IS fighters from Iraq and Syria could take advantage of the chaos to enter Libya.

"This is the best time," he told the BBC. "ISIS always look for any conflicts or fighting and they come immediately. It will be very difficult to fight them again."

About 700 Libyan fighters were killed in the operation to drive IS from its coastal stronghold in the city of Sirt, in 2016. The minister warned that if IS fighters can re establish themselves in Libya they can travel with ease to their target - Europe.

The minister insisted that the prison where Abedi is being held is secure, despite the conflict threatening the capital. More than 250 people have been killed since the offensive began on 4 April .

image copyrightShutterstock
image captionThe Manchester Arena was attacked on 22 May 2017

He accused the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, of abandoning Tripoli in its hour of need by withdrawing British military and embassy staff from the city when it came under attack.

Relations between the countries had been "damaged" by this, he said, and it would be difficult to rebuild them in a short space of time.

The Foreign Office has confirmed all remaining British staff were withdrawn from Tripoli due to the worsening violence.

It said it maintains full diplomatic relations with Libya and is in contact with the government.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBritish staff have been withdrawn from Tripoli due to the worsening violence.

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