Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info in concert bombing

MANCHESTER, England — Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester's police chief announced Thursday, while other British authorities complained bitterly about information leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the eight suspects detained so far were "significant" arrests and said the searches will take several more days to complete. Police have swooped in on multiple addresses in the city since Tuesday and those arrested include bomber Salman Abedi's brother Ismail.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to raise the issue with President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels. She said she plans to "make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure."

British officials are particularly angry that photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the Manchester attack were published in The New York Times, although it is not clear that the paper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.

British police and security services were also upset that Abedi's name was apparently leaked by U.S. officials and published while police in Britain were withholding his name. The bomber's name was allegedly released by U.S. officials just as raids were underway in Manchester and in Libya where the bomber's father lives.

May also said Thursday that progress is being made in the Manchester bombing investigation and said the national threat level remains critical — meaning another attack may be imminent.

Speaking after a meeting of the government's crisis committee, May said "the public should remain vigilant."

RELATED STORY Manchester bombing victims include at least 7 parents

As hundreds of British soldiers protected some of the world's most visited tourist sites in London and elsewhere, police are pressing to uncover the network that is thought to have helped Abedi in the deadly attack. The attacker himself died in the blast Monday night at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Greater Manchester Police condemned the investigation leaks on behalf of the National Counter-Terrorism Policing units in a statement that suggested a severe rupture in trust between Britain and the United States, who have traditionally shared intelligence at the highest levels.

"When the trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their family," the statement said. "This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation."

On Thursday at 11 a.m., many across Britain fell silent and bowed their heads for a minute in tribute to the victims of Monday night's bombing. Crowds gathered at well-known sites including London's Parliament and Trafalgar Squares and Manchester's Albert Square.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Royal Manchester Children's Hospital on Thursday to talk to some of the bombing victims.

In addition to those killed, 116 people have received medical treatment at Manchester hospitals for wounds from the blast. The National Health Service says 75 people have been admitted to eight hospitals, "including 23 patients currently receiving critical care."

On the investigation front, Greater Manchester Police say two men were arrested overnight in Manchester and in the Withington area south of the city. Officers also raided a property in the city's Moss Side neighborhood early Thursday and carried out a controlled explosion.

A German magazine, meanwhile, reported that the Manchester concert bomber passed through Duesseldorf airport four days before the attack. Citing unnamed federal security sources, Focus reports that Salman Abedi twice flew from a German airport in recent years and wasn't on any international watch list.

A German security official told The Associated Press on Thursday the report was accurate. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information hadn't been cleared for public release.

Focus reported that German authorities are now trying to determine whether Abedi had contact with Islamic extremists in Germany before flying to Manchester last week. It says he previously flew from Frankfurt to Britain in 2015.

The magazine also reported that British police informed their German counterparts that Abedi had received paramilitary training in Syria.

The bomber's father, Ramadan Abedi insisted in an interview with The Associated Press that Salman had no links to militants, saying "we don't believe in killing innocents."

He and another of his sons, Hashim, were taken into custody Wednesday in the Libyan city of Tripoli.

Grande cancelled concerts that were to take place Thursday and Friday in London, and in several other sites in Europe.

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