The Counter-terror police investigating the Manchester Arena bombing are carrying out fresh raids amid fears the attacker might have built a second device that is now in the hands of fellow jihadists.
The police raided the home of Salman Abedi, the man they identified as the bomber; he died in the blast. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said that the investigation was focusing on determining “whether Abedi was acting alone or as part of a network.”
The number of arrests in the UK went up to eight as British Transport Police said armed officers would begin patrols on some trains because of an increased threat of terrorism. Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said, without elaborating, that searches of suspects’ homes brought “very important” clues in the probe of the bombing.
“It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in Manchester after a meeting of her top security officials.
Security sources now believe he assembled the bomb himself after learning his trade in Libya. But the amount of material in his home has led to fears that he could have built more than one device and distributed them to other British-based extremists.
A security source told that, “The worry is there was enough to build two or three bombs and we can’t rule that out.”
Former Metropolitan Police officer, David Videcette, who helped investigate the tube bombings, said it was likely Abedi had spent many months abroad practising how to assemble a device before returning to the UK.
He said: “This is not something you can just put together by reading a book or watching a YouTube video. He would have spent time at a camp somewhere, possibly in Libya, being shown how to do it. “But once you have the skills and the materials, assembling the device itself can be done quickly.”
The suspect in the deadly Manchester concert bombing was driven by what he saw as unjust treatment of Arabs in Britain, a relative said Thursday, confirming he made a final phone call in which he pleaded: “Forgive me”.
“Salman Abedi was particularly upset by the killing last year of a Muslim friend whose death he believed went unnoticed by “infidels” in the UK”, the relative told. “Why was there no outrage for the killing of an Arab and a Muslim in such a cruel way?” she asked.
“Rage was the main reason,” for the blast that killed 22 at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday, she said, speaking by telephone from Libya.
Authorities chased possible links between Abedi and militants in Manchester, elsewhere in Europe, and in North Africa and the Middle East. They were exploring potential ties to Abdalraouf Abdallah, a Libyan jailed in the UK for terror offenses, and to Raphael Hostey, an Islamic State recruiter killed in Syria.
Abedi’s family remained a focus, with a brother in England, his father and another brother in Libya among those detained. Abedi’s father was allegedly a member of the al- Qaida-backed Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s, a claim he denies.
Manchester police halted their sharing of investigative information with the US through most of Thursday until receiving fresh assurance there would be an end to leaks to the media.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who spoke about the matter with US President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels, said the countries’ partnership on defence and security was built on trust. But “part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently,” she said.
Mr Trump pledged to “get to the bottom” of the leaks, calling them “deeply troubling” and asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter”.
British security services were also upset that 22-year-old Abedi’s name was apparently leaked by US officials while police in the UK continued withholding it and while raids were underway in Manchester and in Libya. Mr Hopkins said the leaks “caused much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss”.
After yesterday’s transatlantic row over Manchester security leaks in America, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is making his first official visit to the UK.
The Foreign Office said the visit was “an expression of UK-US solidarity” following the terrorist attack in Manchester. The pair will write messages of condolence for the victims and hold talks on a range of foreign policy issues. However, the visit will be seen as an attempt to repair the rift that opened up over the intelligence leaks.
Around the UK, many fell silent Thursday for a late-morning minute in tribute to the victims.
In Manchester’s St. Ann’s Square, where a sea of floral tributes grew by the hour, a crowd sang the hometown band Oasis’ song “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
In addition to those killed, 116 people received medical treatment at Manchester hospitals for wounds from the blast. The National Health Service said 75 people were hospitalized.