Salman Abedi Identified as Manchester Arena suicide bomber, Theresa May condemns 'sickening' attack



MANCHESTER, England, May 23 (Reuters) - British police on Tuesday identified the suicide bomber who killed 22 people, including children, in an attack on a crowded concert hall in Manchester, and said they were trying to establish whether he had acted alone or with help from others.

The suspected attacker was named as Salman Abedi, aged 22. Two U.S. officials who have been in contact with British authorities said he was believed to have traveled to Manchester from London by train.

"Our priority, along with the police counter-terrorism network and our security partners, is to continue to establish whether he was acting alone or working as part of a wider network," Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said.

Police raided houses in the northern English city and arrested a 23-year-old man after Monday evening's attack, the deadliest in Britain for 12 years.

Prime Minister Theresa May called it an act of "sickening cowardice" targeting "defenseless children and young people."

27 PHOTOS
Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack
See Gallery
Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack
A woman lays flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Police officers look at flowers and messages left for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United Training - Manchester United Training Ground - 23/5/17 Manchester United players and staff stand for a minute of silence during training honouring the people killed and wounded in an explosion at Manchester Arena Reuters / Andrew Yates Livepic
Flowers and messages for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack are seen in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
A woman lays flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
A man writes a message on the pavement in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
70th Cannes Film Festival - Tribute for Manchester - Cannes, France. 23/05/2017. Cannes Film Festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux, Cannes Film festival president Pierre Lescure, actress Isabelle Huppert and staff members observe a minute of silence on the red carpet. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Flowers as a tribute for victims of Monday's suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the English city of Manchester are seen in front of the British embassy in Berlin, Germany May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A man photographs a sign in Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Messages are left amongst tributes left by members of the public in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester,England. At least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert packed with children in the northern English city of Manchester, in the worst terror incident on British soil since the London bombings of 2005.� (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Flowers left by members of the NHS are left in St. Anne's Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Prime Minister Theresa May held a COBRA meeting this morning following a suicide attack at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police have confirmed the explosion as a terrorist attack with 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 23: A British Union Jack flag flies at half-mast on top of the embassy of Great Britain in tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack the last night in Manchester on May 23, 2017 in Paris, France. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron will go this afternoon to the British Embassy to sign the book of condolences. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
People pass flowers left in front of the British embassy in Kiev on May 23, 2017, in tribute to victims of deadly Manchester Arena terror attack. Twenty two people have been killed and dozens injured in Britain's deadliest terror attack in over a decade after a suspected suicide bomber targeted fans leaving a concert of US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester. / AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers in front of the British embassy in Kiev on May 23, 2017, in tribute to victims of deadly Manchester Arena terror attack. Twenty two people have been killed and dozens injured in Britain's deadliest terror attack in over a decade after a suspected suicide bomber targeted fans leaving a concert of US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester. / AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Religious leaders hold a prayer meeting in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Flowers as a tribute for victims of Monday's suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the English city of Manchester are seen in front of the British embassy in Berlin, Germany May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A woman places flowers on an impromptu memorial at Manchester Town Hall for the victims of an attack at Manchester Arena, Manchester, Britain, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
People stop to look at flowers and messsages on an impromptu memorial in St Anns Square for the victims of an attack at Manchester Arena, Manchester, Britain, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
Women pay their respects to all those affected by the bomb attack, following a vigil in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Women react after lighting candles for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
The water fountain (jet d'eau) is lit with blue, red and white in remembrance for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A woman looks at flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
People take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 23: The colors of the Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, are projected on to the Melbourne Town Hall as a tribute to Manchester Bombing victims on May 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Members of the public pause to look at floral tributes and messages as the working day begins on May 24, 2017 in Manchester, England. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena on the evening of May 22 as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Floral tributes, messages and candles are pictured in Albert Square in Manchester, northwest England on May 24, 2017, as tributes to the victims of the May 22 terror attack at the Manchester Arena. Police on Tuesday named Salman Abedi -- reportedly British-born of Libyan descent -- as the suspect behind a suicide bombing that ripped into young fans at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE


Islamic State, now being driven from territories in Syria and Iraq by Western-backed armed forces, claimed responsibility for what it called a revenge attack against "Crusaders," but there appeared to be contradictions in its account of the operation.

"All acts of terrorism are cowardly," May said in a statement outside her Downing Street office after a meeting with British security and intelligence chiefs.

"But this attack stands out for its appalling sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives."

She said security services were working to see if a wider group was involved in the attack, which fell less than three weeks before a national election. The election campaign has been suspended for now as a mark of respect.

May spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and several other foreign leaders on Tuesday about the attack, her spokesman said. She also visited the police headquarters and a children's hospital in Manchester.

31 PHOTOS
Timeline of the Manchester Arena attack
See Gallery
Timeline of the Manchester Arena attack
Police vehicles and a police officer are seen outside the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing in Manchester, northern England, Britain May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
Police responded to reports of an incident at Manchester Arena. Please stay away from the area. More details to follow....
#arianagrande concert in Manchester where people were running to get safe after an explosion took place, the concert goers reportedly heard two loud booms and there may have been casualties #gossiptwins
An ambulance drives away from the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing, in Manchester, northern England, Britain, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Emergency services responding to serious incident at Manchester Arena. Avoid the area. More details will follow as soon as available
Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing, in Manchester, northern England, Britain, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Pictures of the injured beginning to come out of Manchester (credit: Joel Goodman) https://t.co/9LebrHAmby
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - A person is wheeled away on a stretcher at Victoria Railway Station close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Police statement on incident at Manchester Arena https://t.co/gaKASukx9a
Due to the incident in Manchester, please only call us for life threatening emergencies at this time. Thank you.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Emergency services arrive close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Members of the public receive treatment from emergency service staff at Victoria Railway Station close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Latest statement on incident at Manchester Arena https://t.co/BEpLOan3dY
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Police corden off an area close to the Box Office entrance to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police have confirmed 19 fatalities and at least 50 injured. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Members of the public are escorted from the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Police escort members of the public from the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. There have been reports of explosions at Manchester Arena where Ariana Grande had performed this evening. Greater Manchester Police have have confirmed there are fatalities and warned people to stay away from the area. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
#Manchester explosion @gmpolice statement: 19 dead and around 50 injured in the incident that's currently being tre… https://t.co/LmzzMsc5CV
Latest statement on incident at Manchester Arena @CCIanHopkins https://t.co/GEABqAk5rr
NWAS has taken 59 casualties from the Manchester Arena incident to various hospitals & treated a number of walking wounded on scene
Forensics investigators work at the entrance to the Manchester Arena, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, addresses the media near the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing in Manchester, northern England, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
A youngster wearing a t-shirt showing U.S. singer Ariana Grande talks to the media near the Manchester Arena in Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd arrives in Downing Street for an emergency cabinet meeting in London, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 23: Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside No 10 Downing Street following the terror attacks at Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in London, England. A large explosion was reported at the end of a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. So far, police have confirmed 22 dead and over fifty injured in the explosion, now thought to be terrorist-related. PHOTOGRAPH BY Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
At the request of @JunckerEU, flags at half-mast in @EU_Commission in solidarity with the British people… https://t.co/AHKQTbW2oY
People rush out of the Arndale shopping centre as it is evacuated in Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Police say it's a false alarm sparked by someone panicking unnecessarily. Outbreaks like this often happen in wake of a terror attack.
#Breaking Man, 23, arrested in connection with Manchester Arena bomb attack, @gmpolice say https://t.co/Y6On1vMA4R
An armed police officer stands outside a residential property near to where a man was arrested in the Chorlton area of Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"PLEASE RETWEET"

Desperate parents and friends posted heart-wrenching messages and pictures on social media in the search for their loved ones who had been at the concert by Ariana Grande, a U.S. singer who has a large number of young and teenage fans.

"Please...please retweet. Looking for my daughter and her friend," Michael MacIntyre wrote on Twitter, alongside an image of his daughter Laura and her friend Eilidh.

Police raided a property in the Manchester district of Fallowfield where they carried out a controlled explosion. Witnesses in another area, Whalley Range, said armed police had surrounded a newly built apartment block on a usually quiet tree-lined street.

Manchester remained on high alert, with additional armed police drafted in. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more police had been ordered onto the streets of the British capital.

Monday's attack was the deadliest in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London's transport system in 2005. But it will have reverberations far beyond British shores.

Attacks in cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have shocked Europeans already anxious over security challenges from mass immigration and pockets of domestic Islamist radicalism. Islamic State has repeatedly called for attacks as retaliation for Western involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

STAMPEDE

Witnesses related the horror of the Manchester blast, which unleashed a stampede just as the concert ended at Europe's largest indoor arena, full to its capacity of 21,000.

"We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs ... it was just chaos," said Sebastian Diaz, 19. "It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off."

A video posted on Twitter showed fans, many of them young, screaming and running from the venue. Dozens of parents frantically searched for their children, posting photos and pleading for information on social media.

Queen Elizabeth held a minute's silence at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in London.

The White House said Trump had agreed with May during their telephone conversation that the attack was "particularly wanton and depraved."

Macron and senior French ministers walked to the British embassy in Paris to sign the condolence book.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it "will only strengthen our resolve to...work with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds."

Singer Grande, 23, said on Twitter: "broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words."

CONTRADICTIONS

Islamic State, while claiming responsibility on its Telegram account, appeared to contradict British police's description of a suicide bomber. It suggested explosive devices were placed "in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders."

"What comes next will be more severe on the worshippers of the cross," the Telegram posting said.

It did not name the bomber, which it usually does in attacks it has ordered, and appeared also to contradict a posting on another Islamic State account, Amaq, which spoke of "a group of attackers." That reference, however, was later removed.

London police said extra armed officers would be deployed at this weekend's soccer cup final at Wembley and rugby at Twickenham. Security would be reviewed also for smaller events.

British police do not routinely carry firearms.

In March, a British-born convert to Islam plowed a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing to death a police officer who was on the grounds of parliament. The man was shot dead at the scene.

In 2015, Pakistani student Abid Naseer was convicted in a U.S. court of conspiring with al Qaeda to blow up the Arndale shopping center in the center of Manchester in April 2009.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, Kate Holton, David Milliken, Elizabeth Piper, Paul Sandle and Costas Pitas in LONDON, Mark Hosenball in LOS ANGELES, John Walcott in WASHINGTON, D.C., Leela de Kretser in NEW YORK, Omar Fahmy in CAIRO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; writing by Guy Faulconbridge, Nick Tattersall and Gareth Jones; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.