Police have arrested a man in connection with the Manchester Arena bomb attack on Tuesday [23 May] as Theresa May condemned the “sickening cowardice” of the perpetrator.
Greater Manchester police, who believe they know the identity of the bomber, detained a 23-year-old man in the south of the city in connection with the attack, which killed 22 people, including an eight-year-old girl.
Armed police also raided a flat on the Whalley Range/Chorlton area in an operation linked to the attack. and carried out a controlled explosion after a raid in nearby Fallowfield.
A further 59 people were injured in Monday night’s attack at the end of a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande, including at least 12 children. North West ambulance service also tended to about 60 walking wounded.
Speaking outside Downing Street after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting, May said: “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
Shortly after the prime minister finished speaking, the first victim was named as 18-year-old Georgina Callander, a health and social care student at Runshaw College in Lancashire. Later, eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos was the second vicim to be named. Chris Upton, the headteacher at Tarleton Community primary school, where she was a pupil, described her as “simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word”.
Other parents were frantically trying to trace their missing children.
May, who travelled to Manchester later on Tuesday, said the city had “fallen victim to a callous terror attack, which targeted some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation”.
She said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but an opportunity for carnage.
“But we can continue to resolve to thwart such attacks in future, to take on and defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence. And if there turn out to be others responsible, to seek them out and bring them to justice.”
The Queen expressed her “deepest sympathy” to all those affected, saying: “The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury.” World leaders lined up to state their solidarity with the UK, including the US president, Donald Trump, who described the perpetrators as “evil losers” and said they must be “obliterated”.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. However, as with other recent attacks it has claimed responsibility for, it provided no evidence of its involvement and the statement contained inaccuracies so is likely to be treated with caution.
Leaders representing different faiths also condemned the attack. Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This is horrific, this is criminal. May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”
The bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said faith leaders in the city were united. “The guilt for last night belongs to the perpetrators and the perpetrators alone – it doesn’t go beyond them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said the Muslim community was “one with us”, adding: “You will be part of how we together respond to last night.”
The Cobra meeting began at 9am in Downing Street and lasted for nearly two hours. It was attended by cabinet ministers including the home secretary, Amber Rudd, the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, and the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, joined the meeting via videolink from Manchester and was due to meet May in the city alongside the Greater Manchester police chief constable, Ian Hopkins. Burnham has called a vigil at 6pm on Tuesday in Albert Square in the city centre.
May said: “This was among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the UK and although it is not the first time Manchester has suffered in this way, it is the worst attack the city has experienced and the worst ever to hit the north of England.”
Cobra will meet again later on Tuesday after the prime minister’s visit to Manchester and will be chaired by May, Downing Street said.
She said more than 400 police officers had worked throughout the night and said they would need time to establish whether the attacker was acting alone or was “part of a wider group”.
The prime minister paid tribute to the emergency services, who had battled through “traumatic and terrible scenes to save lives and care for the wounded”.
She also praised others who had rushed to help, saying those “are the images that embody the spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain”. Among those who rallied round in Manchester were individuals opening up their homes to strangers, taxi drivers waiving their fares and Sikh temples and hotels offering refuge.
May and the leaders of other political parties suspended campaigning for the general election. She had been due to speak at a campaign event in south-west England.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, May spoke to the President Trump, who offered his condolences. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, tweeted that he planned to call May.
No 10 said the government was not planning to increase the threat level to “critical” from “severe”, which is the fourth-highest ranking. Critical – the highest ranking – would only be used if another attack were believed to be imminent.
Nevertheless, security was beefed up across the country, with more armed officers deployed on the street. The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said the extra presence would continue for as long as needed. and that discussions were taking place with all those planning events this weekend, from the FA cup final at Wembley and the Aviva rugby premiership final at Twickenham to smaller events, to ensure necessary steps had been taken. The Met said the aim was “to make London as hostile an environment as possible for any would-be attacker”.
Security was also stepped up in Scotland where the chief constable deployed armed police on high visibility patrols in crowded areas, airports and railway stations.
Source: The Guardian
By: Jessica Elgot and Haroon Siddique
23 May 2017