UK FU­RI­OUS OVER

Bri­tain stops shar­ing in­tel­li­gence with US

New Straits Times - - World -

MANCH­ESTER

BRE­CEP TAYYIP ER­DO­GAN, Pres­i­dent of Turkey

RI­TAIN raced yes­ter­day to hunt down a ji­hadist net­work thought to be be­hind the con­cert at­tack here, as a row es­ca­lated be­tween Lon­don and Washington over leaked ma­te­rial from the probe.

As more chil­dren were named among the 22 vic­tims of Mon­day’s mas­sacre, Libyan au­thor­i­ties de­tained the sui­cide bomber’s fa­ther as well as his brother and po­lice in Bri­tain also car­ried out new ar­rests and raids.

A griev­ing coun­try ground to a halt for a minute’s si­lence at 11am lo­cal time to re­mem­ber the dead, in­no­cent vic­tims of the lat­est Is­lamic State-claimed atroc­ity to hit Europe.

Carmel McLaugh­lan, 69, came to St Ann’s Square here for the minute’s si­lence.

As she stood next to the flow­ers, she said: “I just feel as though it’s a be­reave­ment for all of us. It’s like your own fam­ily just passed away, it’s just so, so sad, there’s just sad­ness hang­ing over Manch­ester at the mo­ment. It’s ter­ri­ble, it’s hard to believe it.”

Feel­ings are still raw fol­low­ing Sal­man Abedi’s at­tack on a con­cert by United States pop star Ari­ana Grande, es­pe­cially so as the bomber was born in the city.

But Manch­ester United fans stood to­gether in de­fi­ant mood as their team’s tri­umph in the Europa League fi­nal brought some much-needed smiles to a city still in pain.

The club ded­i­cated their tro­phy to those killed, while man­ager Jose Mour­inho said they would gladly ex­change it if it could bring their lives back.

But amid the grief, Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties were left “fu­ri­ous” by re­peated leaks of ma­te­rial shared with their US coun­ter­parts, pro­vid­ing an awk­ward back­drop for Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s meet­ing with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion sum­mit in Brussels yes­ter­day.

Images ob­tained by The New York Times showed a det­o­na­tor Abedi was said to have car­ried in his left hand, shrap­nel in­clud­ing nuts and screws and the shred­ded re­mains of a blue back­pack.

“We are fu­ri­ous. This is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” a gov­ern­ment min­istry source said of the images “leaked from in­side the US sys­tem”.

The leak, which fol­lowed a sim­i­lar leak of the bomber’s iden­tity and probe de­tails, has rocked the in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween close al­lies Lon­don and Washington.

The Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Polic­ing body said the breach of trust caused great “dam­age” and “un­der­mines our in­ves­ti­ga­tions”.

Univer­sity dropout Abedi, 22, grew up in a Libyan fam­ily that re­port­edly fled here to es­cape the now-fallen regime of Libyan dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gaddafi.

His fa­ther, Ra­madan, and younger brother, Hashem, were de­tained in Libya, au­thor­i­ties there said.

A spokesman for the Deter­rence Force, which acts as Libya’s Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord’s po­lice force, said the brother was aware of Abedi’s plan and the sib­lings were both IS mem­bers.

The at­tack was the lat­est in a se­ries of deadly in­ci­dents across Europe claimed by IS that have co­in­cided with an of­fen­sive on the group in Syria and Iraq car­ried out by US, Bri­tish and other Western forces.

Hashem had been “un­der sur­veil­lance for a month and a half” and “in­ves­ti­ga­tion teams supplied in­tel­li­gence that he was plan­ning a ter­ror­ist at­tack in the cap­i­tal Tripoli”, the Deter­rence Force said on its Face­book page.

A rel­a­tive said Abedi had trav­elled here from Libya four days be­fore the bomb­ing.

Bri­tish of­fi­cials said Abedi had been on the radar of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity be­fore the mas­sacre.

“It’s very clear that this is a net­work that we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing,” Manch­ester po­lice chief Ian Hop­kins said.

Po­lice an­nounced two new ar­rests yes­ter­day in their probe, bring­ing the to­tal to eight peo­ple in cus­tody in Bri­tain.

A woman de­tained on Wed­nes­day was re­leased with­out charges.

Po­lice said they con­ducted a con­trolled ex­plo­sion in the south of the city yes­ter­day where they were car­ry­ing out searches in the Moss Side area connected to the at­tack.

And bomb dis­posal units were rushed to a call at a col­lege , with the po­lice shut­ting down roads.

El­ders at the mosque be­lieved to have been fre­quented by Abedi in­sisted that his ac­tions were wholly alien to their preach­ing, and pointed the fin­ger at on­line rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

“This act of cow­ardice has no place in our re­li­gion,” said Fawzi Haf­far, a trustee at the Dids­bury mosque.

French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Gerard Col­lomb said Abedi had “likely” been to Syria af­ter the trip to Libya, cit­ing in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to their coun­ter­parts in Paris.

“In any case, the links with IS are proven,” he said.

Bri­tain’s terror threat as­sess­ment has been hiked to “crit­i­cal”, the high­est level, mean­ing an at­tack is con­sid­ered im­mi­nent.

Armed troops were sent to guard key sites, a rare sight in main­land Bri­tain.

The at­tack was the dead­li­est in the coun­try since 2005 when four Is­lamist sui­cide bombers at­tacked Lon­don’s trans­port sys­tem, killing 52.

A to­tal of 64 peo­ple are be­ing treated in hospi­tal, in­clud­ing 20 in crit­i­cal care, med­i­cal of­fi­cials said.

Twelve of the in­jured are aged un­der 16. One of those killed was an 8-year-old girl. AFP

AP PIC

Mem­bers of the pub­lic ob­serv­ing a minute of si­lence in mem­ory of the vic­tims of Mon­day’s ex­plo­sion at St Ann’s Square in Manch­ester, Eng­land, yes­ter­day.

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