Bombing probe yields several arrests
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — Home searches across Manchester and beyond have uncovered important items in a fast-moving investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester’s police chief said Thursday as a diplomatic spat broke out over U.S. leaks about the investigation to the media.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters the eight suspects detained so far are “significant” arrests, and “initial searches of premises have revealed items that we believe are very important to the investigation.”
He did not elaborate, but those arrests around the English city include Ismail Abedi, the brother of 22-year-old Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi. The bomber’s father Ramadan Abedi and another brother Hashim have been detained in Libya.
As police raced to uncover the network that may have helped Abedi attack an Ariana Grande concert on Monday night, furious British officials blamed U.S. authorities Thursday for leaking details of the investigation to the media.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would discuss the leaks with President Donald Trump at a NATO summit. Upon her arrival in Brussels, May said the U.S.-British defence and security partnership is built on trust.
But she said “part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently.”
British officials are particularly angry that photos detailing evidence about the bomb were published in The New York Times, although it’s not clear that the paper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.
British security services are also upset that Abedi’s name was apparently leaked by U.S. officials while British police were withholding it — and while raids were underway in Manchester and in Libya, where the bomber’s father lives.
Hopkins, the Manchester police chief, said the leaks had “caused much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.”
Trump on Thursday pledged to “get to the bottom” of leaks of sensitive information, calling the leaks “deeply troubling.” He said he is asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”
The New York Times defended its publication of crime-scene photographs, saying its coverage had been “both comprehensive and responsible.”
May said the national threat level from terrorism remains at critical — the highest level, meaning that another attack may be imminent. Hundreds of soldiers have replaced police protecting high-profile sites including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament in London.
Around the country, many people fell silent and bowed their heads at 11 a.m. for a minute in tribute to the bombing victims.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on Thursday to talk to some of the victims, their families and medical staff.
“It’s dreadful. Very wicked, to target that sort of thing,” the 91year-old monarch told 14-year-old Evie Mills and her parents.
Investigators are chasing Abedi’s potential links with jihadi militants in Manchester, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The bomber himself died in the attack.
France’s interior minister says Abedi was believed to have travelled to Syria, and U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was part of “a cell of ISIS-inspired terrorists.”
Investigators are trying to find whether Abedi knew several Manchester-based jihadis.
Investigators are also looking into the Abedi family’s ties in Libya. Abedi’s father Ramadan was allegedly a member of the al-Qaidabacked Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s — a claim he denies.
Authorities are investigating whether Abedi could have been stopped, after Libyan community members in Manchester reported concerns about his views.
A cyclist stops to snap a photo of graffiti artists painting murals with the words “No fear here” in Manchester’s Stevenson Square Thursday. On Monday, a suicide bomber targeted Manchester Arena killing 22 people.