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Police make arrest in Manchester blast as source names suspected suicide bomber

By Christina Boyle, Nabih Bulos and Richard Winton • Updated May 23, 2017 at 1:48 PM

 

 

 

LONDON — The militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday for the deadly suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, England, that left 22 people dead, and police said they have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the case.

In a statement released on social media in both English and Arabic, the militant group said a "soldier of the (Caliphate)" had "managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in ... Manchester."

A senior U.S. law enforcement source not authorized to discuss the attack said the suicide bomber's name is Salman Abedi, a known name to British security authorities. The man was in his early 20s and his name appears in some information as Salmon. Abedi's name was provided by British counter-terrorism officials to U.S. authorities.

The statement from Islamic State said the attack was an "endeavor to terrorize the mushrikin," using the Arabic word for polytheists, a pejorative that includes Christians according to the group's ideology, and it threatened to carry out more attacks.

"What comes next," it said, "will be more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies, by Allah's permission."

Claims of previous lone wolf attacks perpetrated by the group's supporters have often come from the Amaq news agency before being acknowledged by Islamic State in a later statement. But Tuesday's claim first came from Islamic State's media branch, hinting the attacker had a more direct link to the group.

Police gave few details of Tuesday's arrest but said they had executed two warrants, one in the district of Whalley Range, one in Fallowfield, in connection with "last night's horrific attack."

In addition to the 22 confirmed dead, more than 59 people were injured when a suicide bomber detonated an explosion near the exits at the concert venue where Ariana Grande had just ended her performance and people were streaming out.

Police said the Monday night blast was caused by a lone male bomber who triggered an improvised explosive device at around 10:30 p.m. He died at the scene.

The youngest victim to be named so far is 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos.

She was at the concert with her mother and older sister, who were both injured and later found in separate hospitals, the Manchester Evening News reported.

"Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word," her school principal, Chris Upton, said in a statement.

"She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly."

Prime Minister Theresa May said the attacker deliberately chose his time and place to "maximize carnage and to kill and injure indiscriminately." She said it was among the worst acts of terrorism to ever take place on British soil.

Security services believe the attack was the work of one man but were trying to determine if he was part of a wider network.

Campaigning for the June 8 parliamentary elections was suspended and May chaired a meeting of the government's inter-agency emergency committee on Tuesday morning.

She said it was a fast-moving investigation and intelligence services believe they know the identity of the attacker, but did not confirm it publicly.

"All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice — deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives," she said outside Downing Street.

The prime minister traveled to Manchester on Tuesday afternoon and urged the British public to stand united in the days ahead.

"The terrorists will never win and our values, our country and our way of life will always prevail," she said.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said there would be a vigil in Albert Square, in the center of the city, at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday.

"For individuals to go there and seek to terrorize those children and those young people and their families in that way is the most appalling evil I can imagine," he told reporters.

"The individual who carried this out is an extremist and doesn't represent any of our communities, does not represent the people of greater Manchester in any way, shape or form.

"We are united, we will not let them win," he added.

Emergency services received their first call at 10:33 p.m. It was swiftly followed by more than 240 calls as the large blast echoed through the venue and mass panic and hysteria ensued.

Some victims described being thrown 30 feet through the air from the force of the explosion, and young people and families with small children who had been euphoric one moment found themselves clambering over one another and climbing locked fences and gates in fear of their lives.

"It was a horrendous end to a perfect night," Joseph Harris, 16, told the BBC. He had been near the front of the stage and was just turning to leave the arena when the explosion rang out.

Concertgoers received shrapnel-like injuries and described seeing nuts and bolts among the pieces of debris. Emergency crews worked around the clock to take the dead and injured to hospital. The prime minister said many of the victims were being treated for life-threatening injuries at eight hospitals in the Manchester area.

As the country woke up to the devastating news, police patrols were stepped up around the country.

In Manchester, armed officers were visible in the streets and at major transportation hubs, and London's Metropolitan Police said extra police officers, armed and unarmed, were on duty.

It was a moment that intelligence agencies had long warned the country to be prepared for, and May said that the threat level will remain at severe, but was being reviewed.

Speaking in Bethlehem, President Donald Trump offered his "deepest condolences" to the people of Manchester and the families of the victims.

"So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life," he said. "I won't call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that's a great name. I will call them losers because that's what they are. They're losers. And we'll have more of them. But they're losers, just remember that."

The explosion occurred near an entrance to the 21,000-seat arena just minutes after Grande's concert ended with the song "Dangerous Woman" and the singer left the stage, witnesses said.

Many of the concert's attendees were girls and young women, some clutching pink balloons, who had come to see one of the world's biggest pop stars.

Grande was not injured and expressed her personal devastation on Twitter. "Broken," she wrote. "From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. I don't have words."

After the explosion, many children were either separated from their parents or came unaccompanied and didn't know where to turn amid the chaos.

Nearby hotels provided shelter to many of the distressed young people as parents and friends put out frantic pleas for information on social media using the hashtag #missingManchester. Local residents also offered free rooms and free rides home to those caught up in the incident.

Some were still waiting for news about their loved ones on Tuesday morning, becoming increasingly distressed and fearful for their child's safety.

"I haven't seen her since 5 p.m. last night," said Charlotte Campbell, who made a desperate appeal for her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. "I'm worried sick, if anybody has seen her, please contact the police, contact somebody, let them know you've seen her, even if you think you've seen her just let the police know, please."

Fans from around northern England had flocked to the arena near the heart of Manchester, about 165 miles north of London, to see Grande's Dangerous Woman tour.

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(Boyle reported from London and Bulos contributed to this story from Amman, Jordan.)

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