Manchester Arena terrorist attack: 22 dead and 116 wounded – Latest from UK police

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Manchester Arena Terror Attack
Photo by Matthew_Hartley

Twenty-two people, including young children, were killed in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena indoor venue after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande. The venue packed with teens in the British city of Manchester on Monday 22 May 2017.

Here is what we know now about the terrorist attack, the deadliest in the UK since 2005.

What happened Monday night

Greater Manchester (UK) police said they were called at 10:33 pm (21:33 GMT) Monday with reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena during a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, who is popular among teenagers and pre-teens.

Eye witnesses described a “huge bang” and scenes of panic as young fans rushed out and parents waiting outside searched frantically for their children.

According to UK police, the blast occurred “within the foyer area of the Manchester Arena”, although the venue said it was in a public area outside. Prime Minister Theresa May stated it was near one of the Manchester Arena exits.

The foyer connects the 21000-capacity auditorium with the Victoria train and tram station, a major transport hub on the northern edge of the city center. The station remained closed on Tuesday.

Who might be behind it

Greater Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins on Tuesday named the attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, adding that he died while setting off “an improvised explosive device”. “The priority remains to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network,” he said.

According to media reports, Salman Abedi was the third of four children, born in Manchester to Libyan parents, who fled their country to escape the regime of former dictator Moamed Kadhafi.  Salman Abedi had recently returned from Libya, according to interior minister Amber Rudd.

The so-called Islamic State group claimed responsibility through its social media channels, saying “one of the caliphate’s soldiers placed bombs among the crowds”, and threatening more attacks.

Greater Manchester police also announced the arrest of another man as part of their investigation and said they had held a “controlled explosion” at the scene of a raid early Tuesday morning.

According to the Guardian newspaper, police raided a house in the neighborhood where Salman Abedi was believed to have lived, as well as the home of the arrested suspect’s brother in south Manchester.

The victims

Prime Minister Theresa May said the 22 dead and the injured included “many children and young people”. The Manchester Arena attack also resulted in 116 people injured, of whom 75 were admitted to hospital and 23 remain in a very serious condition, UK health authorities said on Thursday.

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussis is the youngest reported victim. She reportedly attended the concert with her sister, believed to be in her 20s, and mother. Chris Upton, her primary school headteacher, described Saffie as “a beautiful little girl in every sense of the word”.

Georgina Callander, 18, who was studying health and social care, was the first victim to be named.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack for its “appalling sickening cowardice” and for “deliberately targeting innocent defenceless children and young people”.

What now on UK security

Britain’s threat level remains at “critical”,its highest level, meaning another attack is highly likely, but this will remain under review, Theresa May stated.

“The police and others will of course be looking at the security of venues” and the government will review police resources, May said during a visit to Manchester.

Major sports venues in UK plan to tighten up security, with several high profile events in the coming weeks, including the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Manchester United’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm on Wednesday is still set to go ahead. UEFA, European football’s governing body, said “tight security arrangements” had long been in place.

Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May will still attend the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday and the meeting of G7 leaders in Sicily, Italy on Friday and Saturday.

Manchester Leaks

UK police stopped sharing information about the Manchester Arena suicide bombing with the United States on Thursday after leaks to US media that police said had risked compromising their investigations.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she would tell US President Donald Trump that intelligence shared between their two countries had to remain secure, in a rare public show of dissatisfaction with Britain’s closest security ally.

UK Police are currently holding eight people in custody in connection with the Manchester Arena attack. Manchester’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the arrests were significant.

“I want to reassure people that the arrests that we have made are significant, and initial searches of premises have revealed items that we believe are very important to the investigation,” he told reporters.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told Reuters the bomber, Salman Abedi, might have made the bomb himself or with some assistance from an accomplice. That was a change from previous thinking that a bomb-maker might be at large.

“The focus is still the search for accomplices and the network but he could have made this bomb himself,” the source said.

Troops have been deployed to free up police officers for patrols and investigations, and on Thursday the British Transport Police said armed officers would patrol trains for the first time.

Hopkins said the leaks of details of the investigation to US media, which included forensic photographs of the bomb site published by the New York Times, had been hurtful to the families of the victims.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she would talk to Trump at a NATO summit later on Thursday about the leaks.

“I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure,” she said in a televised statement.

The decision to stop sharing police information with US agencies was an extraordinary step as Britain sees the US as its closest ally on security and intelligence.

“This is until such time as we have assurances that no further unauthorised disclosures will occur,” said a counter-terrorism source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The BBC said later Interior Minister Rudd was now confident the leaks, which she had described as irritating, would now stop.

The most senior US diplomat in Britain condemned the leaks as “reprehensible” and said the US government would take action to identify those responsible and stop them.

British authorities did not say that the investigation had in fact been compromised by the leaks.

Many European cities, including Paris, Berlin and Brussels, have suffered attacks in the last two years, underlining the importance of confidential intelligence cooperation.

Britain routinely shares intelligence with the United States bilaterally, and also as part of the “Five Eyes” network which also includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Source: UK Police / Press releases / UK Gov

Photo by Matthew_Hartley