2 more arrested in Manchester concert explosion case; UK slams US on probe leaks
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — British police arrested two more people and searched a new site in Manchester suspected of links to the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, as British authorities complained bitterly Thursday about investigation leaks blamed on U.S. officials.
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 newspaper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.
May also said Thursday that progress is being made in the Manchester bombing investigation noted the national threat level remains critical — meaning another attack may be imminent.
Speaking after a meeting of the government’s COBRA crisis committee, May said “the public should remain vigilant.”
As hundreds of British soldiers rush to protect 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.
Greater Manchester Police condemned the 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.”
British police and security services are also upset that the name of British bomber Salman Abedi was apparently leaked by U.S. officials and published while police in Britain were withholding the name for operational security.
The bomber’s name was allegedly released by U.S. officials just as raids were underway both in Manchester and in Libya where the bomber’s father lives.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd complained the leaks could cost police “the element of surprise” in their bid to prevent future attacks.
British officials, who have also had access to sensitive information regarding past U.S.-focused investigations, are bound by the Official Secrets Act. The act prohibits them from sharing sensitive information regarding national security but also prevents them from sharing security information involving other countries.
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.
Eight men have now been detained in Britain connection with Monday’s attack. Those include Abedi’s brother Ismail, his father Ramadan Abedi told The Associated Press. A woman was arrested late Wednesday but was later released without charge.
The senior Abedi denied that his son Salman had links to militants, telling the AP in an interview “we don’t believe in killing innocents” before being taken into custody in Libya, along with another son, Hashim.
Abedi died in Monday’s blast at an Ariana Grande concert. Grande cancelled concerts that were to take place Thursday and Friday in London, and in several other sites in Europe.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on Thursday to talk to some of the concert blast victims. Twelve children under the age of 16 were taken to the hospital by ambulance following Monday night’s attack.
Earlier Thursday, at 11 a.m., many across Britain fell silent and bowed their heads for a minute in tribute to the victims caught up in Monday night’s concert bombing. Crowds gathered at well-known sites including London’s Parliament and Trafalgar Squares and Manchester’s Albert Square.
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.”