Britain deploys troops to prevent attacks after Manchester suicide bombing
MANCHESTERSoldiers were deployed to key sites in Britain on May 24 to prevent possible attacks after the terror threat alert was raised to its highest level following a suicide bomb in Manchester that killed 22 people, including children.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced late on May 23 that the threat level was now considered “critical,” meaning an attack may be imminent.
Police had earlier named British-born Salman Abedi, 22, as the perpetrator of the bombing at the Manchester Arena indoor venue at the end of a concert by U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande on May 21.
Some of the victims included an 8-year-old girl, two teenage girls and a 28-year-old man. A Polish couple who had come to collect their daughters after the concert also died, Poland’s foreign minister said. The daughters were safe.
The bombing also left 59 people wounded, some with life-threatening injuries.
“Whilst some of what we are doing will be obvious to the public, there is a huge amount of work happening day and night that the public will never know about,” said Cmdr. Jane Connors, who is leading the London policing operation.
Three men have been arrested in Manchester in an investigation into the attack.
“Three police warrants were executed in south Manchester in connection to the ongoing investigation,” a spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said.
The attack was the deadliest in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London’s transport network.
U.S. security sources, citing British intelligence officials, said Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994 to parents of Libyan origin.
British investigators were looking into whether Abedi had travelled to Libya and whether he had been in touch with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) there or in Syria.
The Times newspaper said Abedi was believed to have returned to Britain from Libya recently.
May said it was possible a wider group was linked to the bombing, prompting the deployment of troops a little more than two weeks before a June 8 national election.
An independent body which sets the threat level recommended it be raised to “critical” from “severe” for the first time since June 2007.
“This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but that a further attack may be imminent,” May said in a televised statement from her Downing Street Office after a meeting of the government’s crisis response committee.
“Armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces ... You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches.”
Britain’s top anti-terrorism officer Mark Rowley said events would only go ahead when it was safe to do so and the decision to raise the threat level had been made on a “precautionary basis” due to gaps in police knowledge while the investigation continues.
He told reporters he hoped that, as has previously been the case, the level would not stay at critical for a long period.
The French parliament, meanwhile, will be asked to extend by several months emergency powers introduced in 2015 to counter the threat of terrorist attacks, President Emmanuel Macron said on May 24 after talks with security chiefs.
Emergency rules giving French police wider search and arrest powers were introduced after Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in and around Paris in November 2015.
Macron, who reviewed national security with defense chiefs following the Manchester attack, said he would ask lawmakers to extend the special powers – due to expire in mid-July – until Nov. 1.