“We were so scared, but my friends and I just ran to our car.”
— Malaysian woman who was at the Ariana Grande concert.
THE Islamic State yesterday claimed responsibility for a bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people, including children, at a concert by United States artiste Ariana Grande in Britain’s deadliest attack in 12 years.
In a statement published on its social media channels, IS said “one of the caliphate’s soldiers placed bombs among the crowds”, and threatened more attacks.
The group’s self-styled news agency Amaq separately claimed “a security squad” carried out the attack.
United States officials who had been in contact with British authorities said the suspect had been identified as Salman Abedi, or Salman Ramadan Abedi, and was believed to have travelled to Manchester from London by train.
Prime Minister Theresa May said he intended to cause “maximum carnage”.
She said he was believed to have acted alone, but police arrested a 23-year-old man yesterday morning in connection with the attack, which occurred just over two weeks before Britain holds a general election.
May condemned the “appalling terrorist attack” and suspended her campaign ahead of a general election on June 8 along with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected,” said May.
Screaming fans, many of them
teens, fled in panic after the bomb blast at the end of the concert in the northern English city on Monday evening.
“There was heat on my neck and when I looked up there were bodies everywhere,” Elena Semino, who was waiting for her 17year-old daughter, told The Guardian newspaper.
Semino, who was injured, said she had been standing by the ticket office of the 21,000-capacity indoor Manchester Arena when the explosion went off.
“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone, and we were all trying to flee the arena,” said Majid Khan, 22, who was at the show with his sister.
Ambulances and bomb disposal teams rushed to the venue, as family members frantically searched for their loved ones, and residents opened their doors to stranded concert-goers after trains were cancelled.
There were children among the 22 killed in the attack, while 59 people were injured, Greater Manchester Police chief Ian Hopkins said yesterday.
The attack was the deadliest in Britain since July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers inspired by al-Qaeda attacked London’s transport system during rush hour, killing 52 people and wounding 700 more.
The Manchester blast recalled the November 2015 attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris in which armed men wearing explosive belts stormed in and killed 90 people. The attack was also claimed by IS.
Police were called to the scene at the Manchester Arena concert and sports venue at 10.30pm.
Manchester Arena said the blast “took place outside the venue in a public space”, while police said it was “within the foyer area of the stadium”.
The foyer connects the auditorium with Victoria train and tram station, a major transport hub on the northern edge of the city centre.
One witness, Gary Walker, told BBC Radio 5 Live that he was hit by shrapnel in the foot and his wife sustained a stomach wound as they waited for their daughters.
“We heard the last song and suddenly there was a massive flash and then a bang and smoke.”
Isabel Hodgins, an actress who was at the concert, told Sky News: “Everybody was panicking, there was pushing up the stairs. The corridor was full. It smelled of burning. There was quite a lot of smoke as we were leaving.
“It’s shocking and we feel very shaken up. We’re just lucky to have gotten away safely.”
Calvin Welsford, 18, from Bristol, told BBC: “It almost sounded like a gunshot.
“I looked around and people were just spilling down, heading out of the building. I was actually having an asthma attack. It was sheer panic.”
Hopkins said investigators were “working closely with the national counterterrorism policing network and UK intelligence partners”.
The US Department of Homeland Security, Britain’s biggest intelligence partner, said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.
“We are working with our foreign counterparts to obtain additional information about the cause of the reported explosion as well as the extent of injuries and fatalities,” it said.
Tributes poured in for Manchester from around the world.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians were “shocked by the news of the horrific attack”, while European Union president Donald Tusk said “my heart is in Manchester this night”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “horrified” by the attack.
The pop world rallied, with Katy Perry tweeting: “Praying for everyone at Ariana Grande’s show.”
Pop princess Taylor Swift, a friend of Grande, wrote: “My thoughts, prayers and tears for all those affected by the Manchester tragedy tonight.”
Manchester residents tweeted with the hashtag #RoomforManchester to offer people who were stranded a place to stay and there were reports of taxis taking passengers for free.
“We have a spare double bed and two sofas available if anybody needs a place tonight,” tweeted @iamjesyrae.
Concerned relatives used the hashtag #MissinginManchester to locate loved ones.
Train services to and from Manchester Victoria Station, which is under the arena, were cancelled.
Page 1 pic: Helpers attending to injured victims at the Manchester Arena after the blast on Monday night. AP PIC
I looked around and people were just spilling down, heading out of the building. I was actually having an asthma attack. It was sheer panic.
CALVIN WELSFORD, 18
People running through Manchester Victoria Station after an explosion at Manchester Arena on Monday night.