A man suspected of killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens at a concert arena in England “likely” did not act alone, Britain’s home secretary said.
Amber Rudd told public broadcaster BBC on Wednesday that suspected suicide bomber Salem Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton, had been known to security services “up to a point”.
Her comments came as security was being ramped up in the wake of the attack, which was carried out in the northern city of Manchester, England, at the Manchester Arena, on Monday evening.
The suspect apparently detonated a device in the foyer of the concert venue, following a performance by the American pop star Ariana Grande.
British media said the youngest victim, Saffie Rose Roussos, was eight years old.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility on its social media channels, saying “one of the caliphate’s soldiers placed bombs among the crowds”.
Some 3,800 soldiers have been on Britain’s streets, taking on guard duties at key high-profile sites such as Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation, Rudd said.
Police and intelligence agencies arrested three more suspects on Wednesday in south Manchester in connection with the attack, taking the total number to four including Abedi’s brother. The rest of his family is thought to be in Libya.
Authorities have raised the “terrorism” threat to “critical” amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack.
Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Philips, reporting from Manchester, said it was a sophisticated attack – the first successful bomb in the UK for 12 years – and that, as Abedi had only recently returned from Libya, it was unlikely he would have had time to make the bomb himself.
“So if he was carrying a bomb which had been made by somebody else, then who is that other person and where is he or she at this point in time and what might they be planning to do,” said Phillips.
“All of those are alarming questions for the British authorities and they help explain why the threat level has been raised to critical, why there are now British soldiers on the streets.”
The suspected suicide bomber, Abedi, was born in Britain to a Libyan family, grew up in Manchester’s southern suburbs and attended local Salford University for a time.
Officials are examining Abedi’s trips to Libya as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats.
Police on Tuesday raided his house, using a controlled explosion to blast down the door.
Neighbours recalled him as a tall, thin young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress and did not talk much.
British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting Wednesday of her emergency security cabinet group to talk about intelligence reports on Abedi and concerns that he might have had outside support.
Police also raided and searched a property elsewhere in Manchester where Abedi’s brother Ismail is thought to have lived.
Officials are probing how often Abedi had travelled to Libya.
|British media said Abedi attended Didsbury mosque in Manchester [Stefan Wermuth/Reuters]|
France’s interior minister said Abedi is believed to have travelled to Syria and had “proven” links with ISIL.
Minister Gerard Collomb said Wednesday on BFM television that British and French intelligence have information that Abedi had been to Syria. He did not elaborate but said it was unclear whether Abedi was part of a larger network of attackers.
British officials have not commented on whether Abedi had links to ISIL or other armed groups.
In addition to those killed in the concert attack, Manchester officials raised to 119 the number of people who sought medical treatment after the attack, including those who travelled to hospitals on their own.
Names of Manchester Arena attack victims begin to emerge
Sixty-four people remain hospitalised, Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said on Wednesday. Officials say 20 of them are being treated for critical injuries.
Many of those still hospitalised had serious wounds that will require “very long term care and support in terms of their recovery,” Rouse said.
Officials said all those hospitalised had been identified.
Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips said there had been anger expressed in Manchester at the attacks.
“What is more of a danger if you like is division and communities turning against each other. I’ve heard small scale anecdotal stuff to that effect,” said Phillips.
“But the overall impression I’ve had here is of a city doing its absolute best at a time of agony and grief to pull together.”
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, told Al Jazeera that: “The people of Manchester are bigger than that, they are better than that. They know what the purpose of terrorism is – to divide – and they won’t let that happen.”
“So there are grounds for hope and the message I will be repeatedly putting out in the next few days is that this man was a terrorist, an extremist. Not a representative of the Muslim community.”
|Women light candles following a vigil in central Manchester [Peter Nicholls/Reuters]|
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies