Family members of Arena bombers Salman and Hashem Abedi are refusing to assist the public inquiry into the atrocity.
Statements have been requested from their parents, father Ramadan Abedi and mother Samia Tabbal, as well as from their older brother and younger sister, Jomana.
Suicide bomber Salman’s younger brother Hashem Abedi, who is now serving a 55-year minimum prison sentence, has also been approached by the inquiry team.
But counsel to the inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, said on the third day of the inquiry: “So far, no member of Salman Abedi’s family has provided a substantive response.”
Salman and Hashem’s older brother, Ismail, has provided an unsigned statement asserting his privilege against self incrimination, the inquiry was told.
Father Ramadan Abedi ‘has indicated that he does not intend to assist the inquiry’, Mr Greaney said.
“As will be obvious, this is most unhelpful,” the QC added.
“We hope that Salman Abedi’s family will reflect and understand that they have a moral obligation to provide the information we require in order to enable the chairman to reach his conclusions.”
The requests are being followed up, Mr Greaney said, but the family are believed to be in Libya.
“We have challenged Ismail’s claim of privilege…the inquiry legal team will continue to press him for answers,” Mr Greaney said.
Evidence about Salman’s friends and associates will be heard, as well as evidence obtained as part of the police inquiry into the atrocity.
Mr Greaney said the inquiry would look at whether authorities ‘missed an opportunity, or opportunities’ to prevent the attack on the Arena.
Preventability, he said, was of ‘acute interest’ to the bereaved families and the wider public.
“One of the most important roles of this inquiry is to understand whether anything more could, or should, have been done to stop Salman Abedi before he attacked,” he said.
A senior M15 officer will give evidence in closed session to keep important operational tactics secret, the inquiry heard.
“The inquiry is committed to the maximum possible transparency and openness in all it does,” Mr Greaney said.
“However it is important to say that it is intrinsic to the functions of MI5 that their work remains secret.
“There will have to be a proportion of the evidence that must be heard in closed hearings.”
The issue of ‘preventability’, the inquiry heard, will examine what intelligence or information was, or should have been available to, the security services, MI5, or police.
The inquiry will also address the radicalisation of Salman Abedi.
He detonated a rucksack bomb in the City Room area of Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017 after an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 and leaving hundreds more injured.
Links between convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah and Salman Abedi are of ‘significant interest’ to the inquiry, Mr Greaney said.
Abdallah, who is currently serving a prison sentence, was visited twice by Salman Abedi and the inquiry was told there appeared to be ‘regular telephone contact’ between them from 2014.
An illicit phone was found in his possession in prison – and it has been linked to calls linked to Salman Abedi.
It’s believed they discussed martyrdom, the inquiry was told, but the exact context isn’t known.
The inquiry was told Abdallah, jailed for nine years in 2016 for terror offences, had numerous telephone contacts from 2014 with Abedi who visited him at HMP Belmarsh and HMP Altcourse, Liverpool.
But Abdallah is also refusing to speak to lawyers for the inquiry about his links with Salman Abedi, as they have asked him to do, it was said.
Mr Greaney said Abdallah was refusing to co-operate, claiming legal privilege not to incriminate himself.
He added: “We are continuing to pursue this line of inquiry.”
“We hope on reflection he will co-operate, so will press for him to give evidence before the inquiry.”
Abedi also visited Kuwaiti national Mansoor Al-Anezi, described as a close associate of failed suicide bomb attacker Nicky Reilly, in Exeter, the inquiry was told.
The inquiry was told of the known history of the Abedi family.
Father Ramadan fled Libya with his family in 1993 and applied for asylum. They then obtained indefinite leave to remain, the inquiry was told.
The family return to Libya in 2011.
Salman and Hashem Abedi came back to the UK in 2012, but did not engage with schooling and started to take drugs, Mr Greaney said.
The brothers then travelled to Libya in 2014, but were among hundreds of Britons evacuated by HMS Enterprise during the civil unrest.
Images of Salman and Hashem Abedi were recovered from the social media account of their brother, Ismail, the inquiry was told.
They were shown to the inquiry – and one showed Hashem posing with a rocket launcher.
Salman Abedi attended Burnage Academy, Manchester College, Trafford College and the University of Salford, where he studied business and management but dropped out suddenly in December, 2016.
At Burnage Academy, the head said Salman Abedi was ‘not a good student’.
He was excluded for theft on one occasion and was described as ‘badly behaved and arrogant’, the inquiry was told.
Manchester College described a ‘poor student’ who was once disciplined for assaulting a female student.
At Trafford College, a tutor told how they saw an image on Salman Abedi’s computer of him holding a gun.
In 2015, the brothers ‘started to change their behaviour’, the inquiry heard, and friends of Salman Abedi said he began to ‘express more extremist views’ from then.
He started to wear more traditional clothing and left his education, the inquiry was told.
He ‘showed some sympathy’ for the aims of ISIS, Mr Greaney said, and developed a ‘violent extremist world view’.
Mr Greaney said that on two separate occasions in the months prior to the attack, MI5 received intelligence about Salman Abedi, ‘the significance of which was not fully appreciated at the time but which, in retrospect, can be seen as highly relevant to the planned attack’.
On March 3, 2017, Salman Abedi was one of 685 closed MI5 ‘subjects of interest’, the inquiry was told.
Mr Greaney said: “He was assessed as meeting a threshold to be considered for further investigation.
“He was due to be considered for referral at a meeting scheduled for May 31, but tragically this was overtaken by the events nine days earlier.”
The inquiry is set to run until spring next year.