Manchester bomber was part of a network: police

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The Manchester suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children was part of a network, the city's chief of police said on Wednesday as troops were deployed across Britain to help prevent further attacks.

Police made three new arrests and searched an address in central Manchester in what police chief Ian Hopkins described as a fast-moving investigation.

"I think it's very clear that this is a network that we are investigating," Hopkins told reporters outside Manchester police headquarters.

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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
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"And as I've said, it continues at a pace. There's extensive investigations going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak."

Earlier, interior minister Amber Rudd said the bomber, Salman Abedi, had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart Gerard Collomb said he had links with Islamic State and had probably visited Syria as well.

Rudd scolded U.S. officials for leaking details about the investigation into the Manchester attack before British authorities were prepared to go public.

The Manchester bombing has raised concern across Europe. Cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have suffered militant attacks in the last two years.

British-born Abedi, 22, blew himself up on Monday night at the Manchester Arena indoor venue at the end of a concert by U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande attended by thousands of children and teenagers.

His 22 victims included an eight-year-old girl, several teenage girls, a 28-year-old man and a Polish couple who had come to collect their daughters.

Britain's official terror threat level was raised to "critical", the highest level, late on Tuesday, meaning an attack could be imminent.

SOLDIERS ON THE STREETS

Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain's streets, taking on guard duties to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, first in London and then elsewhere.

Soldiers were seen at the Houses of Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May's Downing Street residence and at London police headquarters at New Scotland Yard.

A source close to the investigation into the bombing told Reuters that the focus was on whether Abedi had received help in putting together the bomb and on where it had been done.

The BBC reported that security services thought the bomb was too sophisticated for Abedi to have built by himself.

Police arrested three people in South Manchester on Wednesday, bringing the total number of arrests related to the attack to four. A man arrested on Tuesday was reported by British and U.S. media to be Abedi's brother.

Police also said that they had searched an address in central Manchester as part of the investigation and had briefly closed a railway line in order to do so safely but that it had now been re-opened.

In London, the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a draw for tourists, was cancelled because it requires support from police officers, which authorities decided was not a good use of police resources given the threat level.

Chelsea soccer club said it had cancelled a victory parade that had been scheduled to take place on Sunday to celebrate its Premier League title.

Several high-profile sporting events are coming up in Britain, including the soccer FA Cup final at London's Wembley Stadium and the English rugby club competition final at Twickenham on Saturday and the UEFA Champions League final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on June 3.

U.S. LEAKS "IRRITATING"

Britain also has a national election scheduled for June 8. All campaigning was suspended after the attack, although the UK Independence Party said it would resume its activities on Thursday.

Greater Manchester Police said they were now confident they knew the identity of all the people who lost their lives and had made contact with all the families. They said they would formally name the victims after forensic post-mortems, which would take four or five days.

The bombing also left 64 people wounded, of whom 20 were receiving critical care for highly traumatic injuries to major organs and to limbs, a health official said.

Rudd was asked by the BBC about the fact that information about Abedi, including his name, had come out of the United States before it was cleared by British authorities.

"The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again."

France, which has repeatedly been hit by devastating militant attacks since 2015, extended emergency powers.

The Manchester bombing was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London's transport network.

For a graphic showing where the blast hit, click: http://tmsnrt.rs/2rbQAay

(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Costas Pitas, Kate Holton and Kylie MacLellan in London; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

(Writing by Estelle Shirbon and David Milliken; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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