Manchester bomber had 'proven' links to ISIS, says French minister

MANCHESTER, England, May 24 (Reuters) - The Manchester suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children had recently returned from Libya, a British minister said, and her French counterpart said he had links with Islamic State and had probably visited Syria too.

Interior minister Amber Rudd said Salman Abedi had likely not acted alone, and troops were being deployed to key sites across Britain to help prevent further attacks after the official threat level was raised to "critical."

Police made three new arrests in South Manchester on Wednesday in connection with the concert bombing. They provided no details on the individuals held.

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

RELATED: Timeline of the Manchester attack

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

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

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.

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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.

UNLIKELY ABEDI ACTED ALONE

"It seems likely, possible, that he (Abedi) wasn't doing this on his own," Rudd said on BBC radio. She said Abedi had been known to security services before the bombing.

The BBC reported that the security services thought Abedi may have been a "mule" for a bomb made by someone else, because they thought the device was too sophisticated for him to have put together by himself.

Asked about reports that Abedi had recently returned from Libya, Rudd said she believed that had now been confirmed.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said British investigators had told French authorities Abedi had probably traveled to Syria as well.

"Today we only know what British investigators have told us -- someone of British nationality, of Libyan origin, who suddenly after a trip to Libya, then probably to Syria, becomes radicalized and decides to carry out this attack," Collomb told BFMTV.

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Asked if he believed Abedi had the support of a network, Collomb said: "That is not known yet, but perhaps. In any case, (he had) links with Daesh (Islamic State) that are proven."

Islamic State, now being driven from territories in Syria and Iraq by Western-backed armed forces, claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack, but there were contradictions in its accounts of the action and a telling lack of detail.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced late on Tuesday that the official threat level had been raised to its highest level for the first time in a decade, meaning an attack could be imminent.

The UK Independence Party was the first party to announce it would resume campaigning. It plans to unveil its policy pledges on Thursday.

WASHINGTON REBUKED OVER LEAKS

Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994 to parents of Libyan origin, according to U.S. sources citing British contacts.

As Collomb was speaking in France, Rudd was asked by the BBC about the fact that information about Abedi, including his name, had come out from the United States and whether she would look again at how information was shared with other countries.

"Yes, quite frankly. I mean 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."

Asked whether the U.S. leaks had compromised the investigation, she said: "I wouldn't go that far but I can say that they are perfectly clear about the situation and that it shouldn't happen again."

RELATED: Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack

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Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack
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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)
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France, which has repeatedly been hit by devastating militant attacks since 2015, extended emergency powers after the Manchester bombing.

It 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.

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 Islamic radicalism.

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

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