A man arrested in connection with the Manchester Arena terror attack and interviewed 13 times about the bombing, is wanted by police on suspicion of involvement in a drugs gang responsible for flooding the streets with ecstasy and cocaine.
Zuhir Nassrat, who was an associate of bombers, Salman and Hashem Abedi, was linked to an IP address that had attempted to purchase hydrogen peroxide – a chemical used in the manufacture of explosives.
The 24-year-old had previously told police he had given his bank details to Hashem Abedi but denied any involvement in the bombing and was subsequently released without charge.
He had been due to give evidence to the Manchester Arena Public inquiry, but is now thought to have left the country and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
It can now be revealed Greater Manchester Police also want to question Nassrat about his alleged role in a £10 million drug running conspiracy, which has seen five men jailed for a total of 42 years.
Two other members of the gang, Ebrahim Sadigh and Illyas Abudaber, who were sentenced last week, were also associates of the Abedi brothers and were spoken to by police in the wake of the terrorist bombing.
Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds of others injured when suicide bomber, Salman, detonated a bomb during an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.
His younger brother, Hashem, was extradited from Libya two-years later and in 2020 was convicted of helping to plan the deadly attack.
His trial at the Old Bailey heard how he had sourced shrapnel and chemicals in order to build the bomb, persuading unwitting friends to purchase component chemicals via their Amazon accounts.
Nassrat grew up close to the Abedi brothers in Manchester and was a member of the city’s Libyan community. Salman even stayed with his family when his parents visited Tripoli.
During the Manchester Arena inquiry it was alleged that Ebrahim Sadigh had been sent images of Nassrat’s bank card to pass on to Hashem Abedi.
Abudaber, another alleged associate of the Abedi brothers, was also linked to an IP address from which an attempt to purchase hydrogen peroxide had been made. He was never arrested.
Sadigh, 30, and 23-year-old Abudaber were sentenced alongside Sadigh’s younger brother Mohammed Sadigh, 22, Hamam Alhamruni, 24, and Hamza Azouz, 31.
Manchester Crown Court heard how the gang had been part of a sophisticated conspiracy involving the distribution of £10 million worth of drugs.
They peddled MDMA, cocaine, cannabis and ketamine across Manchester and the North West of England before eventually being arrested in December 2020.
Drug gang caught just weeks before Manchester attack
The gang were caught just weeks before the Manchester Arena bombing when police began investigating a crash in the Rusholme area involving a stolen car.
As well as finding drugs in the car they also discovered a number of mobile phones which helped lift the lid on the gang’s activities.
When they raided the home of the Sadigh brothers they discovered a large quantity of drugs and thousands of pounds in cash and luxury items.
Neil Fryman, prosecuting, told the court: “A number of items indicative of a lavish lifestyle were also recovered including a designer clothing, a Rolex watch box and a personalised number plate which read ‘R900 MOE’, and was attributed to Mohammed.”
The Sadigh brothers were jailed for 11 and seven years respectively after they both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, and ketamine.
Abudaber was jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty to the same charges as well as a string of other offences, including possession of a loaded firearm. Azouz and Alhamruni were both jailed for six years each.
Police trying to target those behind ‘street dealer’
Detective Sergeant Richard Bolt from GMP’s Serious Crime Division, said: “The investigation has been complex and spanned a number of years, pulling together what may seem like isolated incidents in order to target those behind the ‘street dealer’.
“This is in order to prosecute the people higher up the chain who often go unseen or unpunished for their actions. The convictions and the sentences show that it does not matter where in that chain you are, you are not removed from the attention of the police.”
Detective Inspector Madeline Kelly, from GMP’s the City of Manchester Xcalibre Task Force, whose team led the investigation, said: “Our top priority is keeping the public safe and we are committed to taking firearms, weapons and drugs off the streets of Greater Manchester.
“We know that when we seize these items or put someone behind bars, that we can’t stop there, and we will continue pursuing criminals across Manchester to bring them to justice and ensure the safety of the communities we serve. I would like to thank our officers for their work in successfully taking the higher echelons of this crime operation off our streets.”